April is Stress Awareness Month. Is it a coincidence that it coincides with one of the major stressors in American’s lives? (Tax Day) We all face every day stressors such as our commute, our jobs, paying bills, raising kids. But then there are those other things that compound and have longer lasting effects on you. Perhaps you have finals coming up or a work deadline or family troubles or maybe you’re battling a chronic condition or illness. Or perhaps you have a combination of many stressors in your life.
Stress can be positive – it’s what activates your fight or flight mechanism, or helps you to meet a deadline – or negative. It’s the negative stress that has a detrimental impact on your health and can show up in many ways – over/under eating, not sleeping, acne, physical ailments like stomach or heart issues, and flares of chronic conditions like fibromyalgia. Learning to cope with these burdens so that they don’t build up can make a huge difference in your health.
It has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including mood, sleep, and appetite problems — and yes, even heart disease.Wellness Magazine
As part of my on-going monthly series of “10 Things to Inspire You,” this month I am giving you 10 ideas to fight stress.
10 Things to Help You to Combat Stress
- Stay positive. Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. Smiling activates neurotransmitters to help you feel good by releasing endorphins, serotonins, and dopamine.
- Meditate. This practice of inward-focused thought and deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Meditation’s close relatives, yoga and prayer, can also relax the mind and body.
- Exercise. Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk or play tennis, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only melts away stress, it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintains a healthy weight. Tip: If you don’t have a dog to walk, check with your local animal shelter to see if they have a dog walking program. That’s a win-win situation for you and the dog!
- Unplug. It’s impossible to escape stress when it follows you everywhere. Cut the cord. Avoid emails and TV news. Take time each day — even if it’s for just 10 or 15 minutes — to escape from the world. Tip: Use your smart phone to set a window of time to relax and breathe, or set some reminders throughout the day to get up from your desk to take a brisk walk and get away from the email.
- Find some “me” time. Simple things, like a warm bath, listening to music, or spending time on a favorite hobby, can give you a much-needed break from the stressors in your life. Getting a massage or a facial are welcome indulgences that help you relax.
- Practice guided imagery. Visualize a beautiful, relaxing beach or the mountains – something that makes you happy. Hold that thought, those images, the sounds and smells. Imagine you are there.
- Talk to a friend. It’s never a good idea to keep your fears and concerns bottled up. Sharing your thoughts will help reduce the stress that comes from holding all of your concerns in.
- Laugh. Watch a funny movie. Read the comics.
- Do something nice for someone. Volunteer. Perform random acts of kindness. Doing something nice for someone else will keep your focus away from your stressors. For a heartwarming story about a 7th grader doing just that, read about Paige Cook who says, “Kindness starts with you, and me.”
- Set limits and learn to say “no.” We can’t do it all. And if we do, we probably aren’t doing it all very well. Reduce your commitments and allow yourself some time for the other things on this list.
Sources: Stress Management, Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. Holiday Stress Reduction Tips from Jewish Exponent.
We are all subject to stress in our lives at time, but learning how to cope can be one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves. It’s a huge win for our bodies and health if we can learn coping mechanisms and tactics to combat those manifestations. Hopefully you’ve gotten some ideas to try next time you’re faced with a stressful situation.
For more ideas, read my post 6 Ways to Cope with Stress When You Have a Chronic Illness.
What are your favorite ways to combat stress?