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Manage Your Stress a Healthy Way

Silver Hill Hospital

Stress, just the word itself is what you would call a stressor. These days, it seems we’re manufacturing stress. Not only do we have job, school, family and money concerns, but technology compounds everything. Turning off from work is a virtual impossibility; teens stress about postings on Facebook and Instagram, and one recent study even found that some mothers felt “Pinterest Stress” because they were not being creative enough. It’s infinitely clear—as a society, we are totally stressed out. The National Institute of Health defines stress as the reaction of our bodies to sudden changes. This is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight response.” However, when a person is chronically stressed their bodies never have a chance to relax and the consequences are serious. We become overwhelmed, angry and aggressive. We eat too much, sleep too little, avoid exercise and because we are irritable, avoid each other. Chronic stress also worsens mental illnesses. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death in the US: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. It may even reduce a woman’s ability to conceive. Since we each feel stress differently, there is really no end to what can cause chronic stress—and our bodies are simply not equipped to deal with it. The Department of Health and Human Services designated April as National Stress Awareness Month to encourage all of us to take time to unwind. Silver Hill offers these tips to help deal with everyday stressors in a healthy way.

Tips to Reduce Stress in Your Life

  • Understand Your Stress: Think about your triggers and prepare for them in advance—is it family, work, financial?  Prioritize if you feel overwhelmed and only do what is essential.  Recognize how you respond—do you get angry, aggressive, or get headaches? Figure out a better way to manage the tension.
  • Exercise: Recent Federal Guidelines recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, but a twenty-minute walk may be all you need to immediately calm your nerves and relieve some stress.
  • Have a Healthy Lifestyle: Binge eating and not getting enough sleep, typical behaviors when we are stressed, can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). The HPA Axis controls reactions to stress. Stay away from caffeine. Drop the sugary food and lean protein, lots of veggies and whole-grain carbs. Healthy diets combined with proper sleep, will help maintain consistent mood levels.
  • Be Mindful and Meditate: Mindfulness meditation, breathing to be in the present moment, has been proven to relieve chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance of it. 
  • Put down the phone, disconnect – and reconnect with those around you: We all know it. Constant checking and rechecking of your phone and computer leads to increased stress. Give yourself a twenty-minute no phone zone each day – and never have it at the dining table.
  • Hobbies: Find a distraction you enjoy. Gardening, music, reading – anything you can look forward to will help relieve stress and distract you.
  • Go easy with criticismBe flexible: Arguing intensifies stress. Finding compromise may even lead to a better solution.
  • Get Professional Help: Sometimes we all need to talk with a professional. Your general practitioner can help you find a psychiatrist or psychologist that will work with you to improve your coping skills. If you are feeling suicidal, call 911 immediately or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).