April Is National Stress Awareness Month
Stress is an unavoidable part of life for most Americans, and while stress can have substantial mental effects, it often leads to physical discomfort, too. Over time, high levels of stress can also increase inflammation within the body and have a serious impact on your heart, so figuring out how to lower stress levels is an integral part of maintaining optimum health.
The link between stress and heart health
Chronic stress occurs when you feel overwhelmed or pressured for an extended period of time, and it can have a sizable impact on your physical and mental health. Many people struggle to get a good nights’ sleep when they are under stress, and failing to get enough sleep often exacerbates stress levels even further. When you fail to get enough sleep, you also become less inclined to move your body and get adequate exercise, and this can lead to weight gain – which may also heighten stress.
Tips for reducing stress levels
While avoiding stress entirely is unrealistic, there are many different steps you might take to reduce your stress levels and limit how much stress impacts your overall health. When you start feeling overwhelmed, try taking the following steps.
Get up and move
Working out, whether by running, dancing, hiking or what have you, can be a great stress buster. As an added bonus, physical activity is good for your heart. So, next time you start to feel stress creeping in, take a break from what you’re doing and concentrate your energies on something physical. Also, bonus points if you get your exercise in the great outdoors, because spending time in nature – and, in particular, amongst the trees – is scientifically proven to help reduce stress levels!
Get more shuteye
There’s a clear connection between how much sleep you’re getting at night and how much stress you’re feeling during the day. When you get adequate sleep at night, you also become more adept at handling the stress you do feel in a healthy, effective manner. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep at night, get up and move more during the day! The more physical activity you engage in during the day, the more likely you’ll be to get a good nights’ rest.
Develop stress-diffusing techniques
Sometimes, simply taking your attention away from whatever is stressing you out can work wonders. When someone else says or does something that stresses you out, try counting to 10 in your head before you respond. Similarly, if you’re sitting at your work desk and you can’t seem to get your head above water, step away for a few minutes and try to handle things after giving yourself a mental break.
Meditation can be a great way to manage stress because it teaches you to focus on the moment, rather than on the million things you have on your plate. Even deep breathing has the potential to make a big difference in terms of stress levels, and you can do deep breathing techniques anywhere, and without anyone even noticing.
Research shows that grateful people are less likely to experience significant levels of stress. Some people find that keeping a gratitude journal, or a summary of all the things they are grateful to have, is an easy way to relieve stress and enhance emotional well-being.
When it comes to stress, it’s not about eliminating it – it’s about learning to manage it and keep it from interfering with various aspects of your life. It may take some time to find the stress-relief strategies and techniques that work best for you. Yet, once you have them in your arsenal, you can utilize them any time stress starts to creep back in and reduce any impact it has on your emotions, your heart and your overall health.