New Year’s Resolution: Reducing Stress

By: Amy Frew, Drake University, PharmD Candidate 2017

MED0000827

Stress is our body’s natural response to challenging situations, whether it’s running away from a bear, giving a presentation at work, asking someone out on a date, or dealing with the everyday problems in our lives. But a lot of Americans, almost half in fact, report that their daily levels of stress impact their physical and mental health. While there is no quick fix to eliminate all of the stress in our lives, there are ways to manage your stress and minimize its effects.

Identifying Your Stressors

In order to manage your stress, you must first identify what triggers your stress. What stresses you?

  • Financial responsibilities
  • Personal relationships
  • Major life changes
  • Work
  • Family responsibilities
  • Family or personal health concerns

How does high stress affect our bodies?

Stress releases a rush of hormones all throughout your body. Some physical effects of stress include headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue, upset stomach, and lack of sleep. In the long term, being stressed can increase your risk of diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even heart attacks and strokes.

These stress hormones also act on our brain and decrease our mental and emotional stamina. Being constantly stressed can cause us to feel anxious, depressed, or angry, which decreases our work performance and may affect our relationships with others. This increased tension in relationships can lead to a vicious cycle of more stress and conflict if we don’t take control of our stress levels.

Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

  • Eat regular, well-balanced meals. Oftentimes, stress causes us to eat too much or skip meals altogether. Designate meal times and make sure to include lean protein, fruits, and vegetables to boost your energy and your spirits!
  • Make time for exercise. Exercise releases endorphins, which cause your brain and your body to feel good. Pick an activity that you enjoy and start light to moderate exercise a couple times a week. Increase your activity level gradually to prevent burnout and injury.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Getting enough rest each night improves your performance and leaves you feeling more energized!
  • Take a break! Step back from the situation for a few minutes to better re-focus your intentions. Take a short walk, close your eyes, take a few slow, deep breaths, or practice yoga or meditation; whatever helps you to regain your calm and improve your mood.
  • Talk to others. Share your feelings and your problems with people you trust, such as a friend, parent, relative, doctor, or religious advisor. If this does not help, you may need to seek further guidance from a psychologist or counselor.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Escaping from your problems in drugs and alcohol may seem easy, but they inevitably leave you feeling worse and creating additional problems and stress.

For more information about managing stress, visit the following websites:

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please contact one of the following hotlines:

Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990
National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-273-TALK
Youth Mental Health Line 1-888-568-1112

The Mayo Clinic. Stress relief basics. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-relief/hlv-20049495. Updated April 8, 2014. Accessed January 12, 2017.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coping with Stress. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/coping_with_stress_tips.html. Updated October 2, 2015. Accessed January 12, 2017.

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