Stress can affect your health in negative ways plus take a toll on other areas of your life. Reduce stress to start feeling better.

To be stressed out means your body is essentially living in a constant state of panic, or “fight or flight.” In emergencies, this type of response can save your life. But when it’s turned on continuously over several days or longer, your body’s chemical balances become upset and you could develop a number of unhealthy symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of stress include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Under- or over-eating
  • Substance abuse
  • Headaches
  • Angry outbursts
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Pain in the chest, back, neck or jaw

High stress has been linked with a multitude of conditions or medical conditions, including heart attacks, high blood pressure and others. And in many situations, stress aggravates chronic pain conditions, such as lower back pain or sciatica.

If you can reduce stress in your life, you may be able to improve a condition you already have and improve your quality of life. Regardless of your situation, if you can minimize everyday stressors, you will be healthier for it.

Ways to reduce stress include:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Laugh a lot
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Lighten your workload/schedule
  • Minimize multitasking
  • Eat a clean diet
  • Spend time with friends
  • Keep a journal
  • Take time to relax
  • Avoiding stimulants and alcohol

There are medications, of course, designed to help a person relax. However, medicine is an effective option for treating the symptoms of stress (for example, depression), rather than resolving the source of the stress.

The most effective way to reduce stress is to make lifestyle changes that make it easier for you to deal with the various aspects of your life — physically, mentally and emotionally.

This might mean re-negotiating your work schedule or workload, delegating certain chores to another family member, saving a day on your calendar that’s just for you, enjoying a relaxation technique (meditation, yoga, massage), or spending more time with friends and other people who make you happy and make you laugh.

While it’s impossible to rid stress from your life completely — let’s face it, some situations are just stressful — there are ways to combat it. Changes like eating healthier, avoiding alcohol and stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, and exercising regularly will help you beat stress by making sure your body is working as efficiently as possible.

When you eat right and move often, your digestion, metabolism, hormones, chemicals, circulation, and nutrition all hang in better balance, making your body that much more prepared to take on whatever comes its way.

Most importantly, practice letting go of stress. Just because you can’t keep it from coming to visit every once in a while doesn’t mean you have to give it permission to stay.

Image by bottled_void via Flickr


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