Stress is an inevitable part of life. Your body is designed to handle stress in small increments, but when you are forced to constantly respond to stress, your health may suffer. Chronic stress can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. To avoid these conditions, it’s important to develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress.
Regular exercise can improve your physical health as well as mental health, which together reduces stress. Physical activity produces endorphins—natural “feel good” chemicals in the brain—that provide a sense of euphoria (i.e. stress relief). Regular exercise can also improve your ability to sleep, increase alertness, and enhance overall cognitive function. Aim for ~150 minutes/week for best results.
The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep per night. When you’re tired, you might become inpatient and irritable, which can affect memory and judgment and even cause additional stress. It can also contribute to several health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes. An extra hour or two of sleep can have dramatic benefits on your heart, weight, and mind. You might have to make some changes to get to bed earlier – can you cut some of your screen time? Or prepare for the day by getting organized the night before?
The body’s relaxation response to meditation lowers blood pressure and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain activity. The overall calming effect produced by meditation can have a positive impact on stress levels.To get started, you can find guided meditations on YouTube and other mobile apps. Try just five minutes each morning to start and see if you notice the positive impact.
Using substances like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine to cope with stress can provide short-term relief. However, depending on them as a long-term solution can lead to additional health concerns, such as high blood pressure, cancer, and addiction. Ultimately, substances like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine exacerbate chronic stress. But it can be hard to kick these habits. There are many free and low cost resources to help you.
If you’re concerned that stress is negatively impacting your health, you should contact your doctor. He or she can help treat specific medical conditions and discuss additional methods for coping with stress. Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) should also have confidential resources to help you learn how to cope with and reduce stress. To find an ACN provider, please visit our "Find a Provider" page or call our Concierge Line at 602-406-7226.