Lower Stress: How does stress affect the body?

woman listening outdoors with eyes closed

Feeling stressed out? It can have lasting effects on your health and well-being. But there are ways to manage stress and its symptoms that can help you feel better.

Stress management: What can you do about it?

  • Stress is a fact of life. A 2017 American Psychological Association survey found that a whopping 71% of respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month. And stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.
  • Sometimes we stress over good things, like a long line at a brunch spot, a new job, an upcoming wedding or a new baby. And other times, it’s over not-so-good things like being sick, working too much or family drama.

Chronic stress can affect your mental and physical health.

Long-term activation of your body’s stress response system, along with prolonged exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, may put you at risk for health troubles such as:

  • digestive problems
  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • weight gain
  • memory and concentration issues
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease and stroke

So what can we do about stress?

Small stress-fighting changes are easy to try. Check out this list for stress relief:

  • Find a friend. Take a 60-second social break to message someone with a “Hello!” And hey, if it turns into a longer chat, that’s fine too. Friendship is important.

  • Move more. Movement is good for your heart and your mind. Dance like crazy to get the funk out, try hula-hooping, briskly walk around the block and listen to the birds, or take that hip-hop class you’ve always wanted to try. Bonus points if you laugh while you’re moving!

  • Hit the hay. Getting enough sleep can help you feel less cranky and overwhelmed, and more productive and creative. If you want those benefits, you need to get to bed earlier! Turn off the screen(s) – you can binge-watch your show and earn more XP tomorrow. Sleep experts suggest aiming for about seven to nine hours of sleep a night. See you in the morning, sunshine!

  • Be with your breath. You’ve been breathing your whole life, but learning to focus on your breath can actually trigger your body’s relaxation response. According to Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and Harvard Medical School Mind Body Medicine Professor of Medicine, diaphragmatic (deep) breathing is one of several ways to elicit the relaxation response. Try it! You’ll be getting your Zen on in no time.
    • Get comfy and take a normal breath.
    • Next take a deep breath slowly through your nose, filling up your chest and stomach. Let your belly really puff out!
    • Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or nose, whichever) and repeat.

De-stressing can be easy and fun. Which stress-busting strategy are you going to try?


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