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Stress is No Laughing Matter

person clearly stressed and rubbing their temples on their head

When is Stress Awareness Month and How Can I Reduce My Stress?

By Mindy Arndt, wellness coordinator at Network Health
4/1/2022

Your heart begins racing. Your muscles tense. Your jaw clenches. You feel the urge to respond to the situation, but you’re not quite sure how. Stress is a normal human experience that happens to everyone. Stress isn’t just an uncomfortable emotion, however. It can lead to several health issues, ranging from panic attacks to major cardiovascular or neurological issues.

Symptoms of stress can go beyond those described above and may include any combination of the following i with a wide range of severity.

  • Dull pain throughout your body or aches
  • Vertigo, dizziness or a headache
  • Nausea or stomach pains
  • Difficulty focusing or remembering things
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Feeling overwhelmed by a decision
  • Feeling agitated or aggressive
  • Lack of appetite or a hyperactive appetite

At the moment you’re experiencing stress, these symptoms are uncomfortable, but long-term or chronic stress can be detrimental causing one or more of the following health issues.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Stroke
  • Sleep disorders

How to manage stress

Unmanaged stress presents the potential for several adverse health effects, that’s why it’s so important to learn what causes your stress and what coping techniques you can use to improve your quality of life.

While managing chronic stress should be done through a behavioral specialist or your personal doctor, there are small steps you can take to control day-to-day stressors and their effect on your mental health.

Accept circumstances you cannot change

One of the leading sources of stress is things in our life that we cannot control. Learning to come to terms with things as they are not, rather than as they should be, through meditation, mindfulness and/or affirmation can help you feel less tense and overwhelmed.

Make healthy diet choices

Because food is our fuel, eating a regular well-balanced diet helps your overall health to make you feel better. Healthy eating helps you concentrate, focus, and boosts your mood. A healthy diet also provides more energy to improve the ability to cope with life’s stressors.

Remember to eat lots of vegetables, eat healthy, low-cholesterol protein (eggs, avocados, nuts) and limit the number of sugars.

Skipping a meal can also make you feel instantly stressed, so be sure to plan for the day ahead.

Exercise regularly

Like a well-balanced diet, regular exercise helps reduces stress triggers and improves your mental and physical health.  Exercise enhances your mood and can help regulate hormones that can contribute to stress. Wondering where to start? Check out the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Fitness.

Take your time

While many of us may feel like we don’t have the time to take a break, setting aside a few minutes for yourself can be the difference between compounding stress and relief.  Slowing down and scheduling breaks into workday, waking up a few minutes earlier to stretch/meditate/do yoga or simply setting your vehicle’s clock five minutes ahead to give you a few minutes to catch your breath when you arrive to work can make a difference.

Get enough sleep

Sleep provides more important benefits to your physical and mental health than just an alert morning. It makes stress management easier. A lack of healthy, quality sleep can even reduce extra stress.

>>> READ MORE: How Much Sleep Do I Need? <<<

Follow your personal doctor’s advice for getting more sleep. Most experts will recommend establishing a sleep routine limiting electronics and distracting screen time within an hour before bed.

Find a hobby and dig in

While stress is often manageable, sometimes it is simply out of your hands. When you are feeling stressed due to something you can’t change, diving into a hobby is a great way to redirect that energy and even builds confidence and release endorphins from the result of creating something or achieving a goal.

Think about the things you love doing. For example, it may be drawing, enjoying wildlife photography or watching a big stack of movies you love. It could be writing letters to your friends or playing tennis.

Whatever activity you choose, doing the things you enjoy can help offset stress.

Work with somebody

Sometimes stress isn’t just a small annoyance that a 30-minute walk or a 15-minute break can fix. If you feel regularly stressed and/or stressed to a degree where it is interfering with your personal or professional life, talk to your personal doctor about seeing someone who can help. There is no shame in seeking assistance and you deserve to feel your best all of the time.

For more information on how your Wisconsin-based health plan can help with mental or behavioral health, contact us today.

>>> CONTACT US <<<


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