If you had to guess at what the most stress inducers for Americans were today, what would you say? We know you’re familiar with them – high-pressure workdays, long commutes, raising kids, not enough sleep, or even trying to maintain a regular exercise routine – the list goes on and on.
While most individuals find stress to be a natural part of life that we are all forced to cope with at one point or another, many people are unaware that being in a constant state of stress for extended periods of time can take a toll on your body, leading them to serious health risks later down the road.
Maintaining a constant mindset of stress (whether you’re aware of it or not) is more common than you might think. In fact, most people who suffer from increased stress levels are unaware of it. High-stress can promote early onset of diseases that you could already be prone to, amplifying them and making them occur much faster. A study performed at Johns Hopkins University discovered that individuals exposed to chronic stress early in life are more likely to develop a mental illness if genetically predisposed. Stress can also do damage to your heart muscle as stress hormones increase the heart rate and constrict blood vessels, making the heart work much harder than it should have to.
So, what are some ways to combat the symptoms of stress?
Exercise is the most effective way to release stress and can be the most overall beneficial lifestyle change when it comes to be a part of your regular routine. By making physical activity a habit, you are less likely to experience anxiety as your body releases endorphins, which are the chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural pain killers. Exercising is also a great way to promote getting a better night’s sleep and increase self-confidence. Try to find an exercise in your routine that you love, or an activity you enjoy such as walking, dancing, or yoga.
Another great stress reliever can be found in the power of writing things down. While some of us find comfort in making a to-do list, others find comfort in writing down the things they are grateful for. Either way, keeping a journal is a great stress manager.
Having a group of friends as a support system can also provide you a sense of belonging and help to get you through tough, hectic times. A study found that women especially when enjoying time with friends, release oxytocin which is a natural stress reliever – terming this as the “tend and befriend” effect.
The bottom line is that even mild forms of stress can lead to long term health issues and should not be underestimated. The connection between mind and body is often minimized, but it is more evident now than ever that the state of the brain can have a profound effect on the body. Although stress arising in the workplace or in your personal life is inevitable, take advantage of these useful ways to reduce pressure on yourself.
These tips often start by getting your mind away from the source of stress — and taking that step alone will start you down the path to de-stress.
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