We’e all been there – mental overload. It could be the boss, or the kids putting you through the wringer. Or the car breaks down at just the wrong time…or you’re late for an appointment. Whatever is stressing you out is not doing your health any good. While you can’t always predict when things will go wrong, you can take control of how you handle bad situations, manage your stress, and promote your well-being.
Stress management is even part of the new Patient Protection and Affordability Act, – part of an emphasizes prevention and wellness. Managing stress not only makes you mentally healthier but can help ease some physical health problems as well. Stress can cause everything from headaches to rapid heartbeats. It can make you nauseous and lightheaded, affect your immune system, heart, muscles, and reproductive organs, according to WebMD.
If you already have health problems, stress can make them worse. Learning to cope encompasses a variety of strategies – and no one solution is right for everyone or works every time, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS). For some people, exercise, yoga, or meditation does wonders. For others, it might be nutritional supplements, listening to music, biofeedback, or just talking to a trusted friend or therapist. Prescription medications such as antidepressants can work in the short term, but most experts do not recommend their use for coping with daily stressors such as work or school.
The AIS says that the best way to reduce stress is to prevent it. Getting enough sleep, eating right, reducing intake of caffeine and alcohol, and taking time out to unwind can all help. The AIS noted,
“Many stress relievers work because of the power of the placebo effect that comes from having faith in the procedure or the therapist”
reducing the feelings of helplessness and feeling a sense of control over the problem.
Experts suggest making some time for yourself every day – even if it’s 10 minutes. Take a walk with the dog or curl up with a good book. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – whether you need a spouse to step up or need to see a professional to gain perspective and coping techniques.
Some stress is inevitable – a death in the family, a traffic jam, a delayed flight. You can’t control some situations, but you can control how you deal with them. Breathe deeply. And try to relax. It’ll do your body good.
The Mayo Clinic has an online Stress Assessment. Find out what stresses you out and learn how to manage it. How do you cope? Have you noticed a link between stress and your physical health? Chime in!