In today’s fast-paced world, we all feel stress from time to time. While some people are good at coping with stress, others let it take over their lives, causing extreme anxiety and potentially harmful side effects. “Some stress is normal and it’s not always bad. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that increase your strength and stamina, speed up your reaction time and give you a burst of energy—preparing you to more effectively deal with the situation at hand. This is called the stress response,” explains Anita Parr, LCSW-C, a psychotherapist at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital.
But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can cause physical and psychological problems. If you frequently find yourself feeling overly stressed, it may be time to work on restoring balance in your life. Here are a few tips:
Get Your Rest.
Feeling tired makes it hard to think clearly and can increase stress. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep daily.
Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction, allowing you to break out of the cycle of thoughts that feed stress.
Connect with Others.
The simple act of talking with someone else can trigger hormones that relieve stress.
Learn to recognize what causes you to feel stressful. This will prepare you to cope better when faced with a stressful situation.
Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing, result in a state of restfulness that can increase your ability to stay calm under pressure.
Watch What You Eat and Drink.
A diet full of processed food, sugary snacks and caffeine can worsen symptoms. So can the excessive use of alcohol, which only masks feelings of stress.
“Stress can help you rise to meet challenges. Too much stress can damage your health and affect your quality of life,” Parr adds. “When stress is having significant impact on your daily activities, you should see a behavioral health professional. There are treatments that can help.”
This article appeared in the summer 2017 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.