Stress is a silent epidemic. Over two-thirds of office visits to physicians are for stress related illnesses. It’s sometimes difficult to identify that stress is what is causing the issues, but there are ways to avoid the stress in the first place.
The most common stress inducing factors can be avoided by making small changes to daily routines. It’s been said time and time again, but a good night’s sleep is essential to a good almost everything else.
Sleep deprivation causes an inability to release stress hormones like adrenaline. A decreased release of these hormones causes them to stay and build up in a person, making them feel unneeded stress and anxiety.
Just as important as a good nights sleep, is a good day’s meal. A well-rested, well-fed person is a happy person.
Bad eating habits and poor nutrition, eating too many processed foods or too much refined sugars can lead to a heightened stress level. Cutting back on caffeine intake can help reduce the chances of stress as well. That morning cup is fine, but too many cups of java through the day can have a negative effect, potentially causing drastic mood changes and elevated cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a hormone secreted in the adrenal glands and can be released in increased amounts because stress. The hormone is important for regular bodily functions like the regulation of blood pressure and glucose metabolism. In the short-term cortisol helps increase memory functions and immunity, and lower pain sensitivity. But over time, long-term exposure to the hormone can have life threatening effects.
Cortisol can increase body fat that accumulates around the abdomen. This fat increase can lead to diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, and can increase one’s rick for cancer. Cortisol can also affect decreased bone density and muscle tissue. Long-term exposure to elevated cortisol levels can also cause depression and other impairments to cognitive performance.
If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids. It’s been shown that kids can adopt a parent’s stressors. Parental stress while children are young can have such an effect on the child that it may change their DNA by the time they’re teenagers.
Reducing stress is sometimes easier said than done, but there’s a few relatively easy ways to go about it.
Exercise is rarely a bad thing; it’s both good for you mental and physical health. Listening to music can reduce stress and make exercise more enjoyable as well. It’s like a form of meditation, doing repetitive and rhythmic tasks can often make you forget the stressors of the day. The endorphins don’t suck either.
Journaling can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings. Just writing things down can help you sort out your feelings, which can leave you less emotionally and physically stressed. The key is not only to write about how you feel but to try to work out emotions, why and how you feel this way, and learn from them. In a study done by the University of Iowa in 2002, people who wrote about a negative life experience in just this way were more aware of benefits in their life following the event, such as improved relationships, greater personal strength, spiritual development, and a greater appreciation for life
Other methods of stress reduction include regular meditaion, self-hypnosis, sex and breathing exercises.