5 Ways To Destress And Improve Overall Health
Stress is a natural reaction to any challenging or threatening event in life. When you're waiting for the results of a diagnostic procedure or when another driver suddenly swerves into your lane, your nervous system releases hormones like adrenalin and cortisol that help to activate the "fight or flight" response. You become more alert, your heart rate quickens, and you breathe faster.
Stress is a normal experience, and it can even be beneficial in certain situations. For example, performers and athletes often find that a little stress keeps them focused and in the moment. Students may find that the stress of an approaching due date sharpens their concentration and motivates them to get their paper or project done. But stress can also have negative consequences, especially when it becomes a chronic condition.
Effects Of Stress
When stress is persistent, it leads to feelings of worry, anxiety, and even depression. In addition to causing negative feelings, stress affects your body in several ways and can lead to significant long-term health problems.1 Common symptoms can include headaches, an upset stomach, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, and pain from muscle tension, to name a few. Longterm stress can lead to even more serious problems, such as an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
How To Destress
It may seem that stress is something you have little control over. While it's true that many causes of stress, like a car accident or an illness, are out of your control, there are some techniques you can use to mitigate your reaction to stressful events or situations. The following are 5 destress techniques that can ease your stress and improve your overall health.2
Exercise, along with a healthy diet, is a key to health and well-being, and it can be an excellent antidote to stress. For one thing, exercise releases endorphins, feel-good hormones that lower pain and increase pleasure. Almost any kind of vigorous exercise can have this effect. Running, dancing, going on a bike ride, and playing tennis are a few examples.
Another way that exercise helps to reduce stress is by forcing the mind to be in the moment. When you're doing any kind of exercise, from swimming to walking outdoors to martial arts, you have to pay attention to your body's movements. Many people find that exercising puts them in a zone where they aren't thinking or worrying about anything else.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Another way to combat feelings of stress is to practice relaxation techniques. Deep relaxation can lower the heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve digestion, boost the quality of sleep, and above all, reduce the activity of stress hormones. Many people achieve relaxation through practices like yoga and mindfulness meditation, which encourage deep breathing and awareness of breath.
A simple way to induce relaxation is to tense and then relax various muscle groups. You can start with your feet and ankles, pulling your toes toward your head and holding the position for a few seconds before relaxing. Do the same with your lower legs, upper thighs, hands, arms, shoulders, and face. Finally, tense up your entire body and hold for at least five seconds before relaxing completely. Once your body is relaxed, you can practice breathing slowly and deeply, keeping your awareness on your breath.
Spend Time With Loved Ones
Positive social interaction releases two types of hormones that increase pleasure and reduce stress: dopamine and oxytocin. Oxytocin is referred to as the "love hormone" because it is strongly associated with mother-and-child bonding as well as sexual bonding between partners. Cuddling or holding hands with a partner, stroking your dog or cat, and having a deep conversation with a close friend are all effective techniques to reduce stress and enhance well-being.
Another benefit of social interaction is that friends provide other viewpoints on stressful situations. If you're worried about a health issue or a relationship problem, talking through it with others can help you see the problem in new ways that may be less stress-inducing.
Listen To Music
There is a large body of research demonstrating the physical and emotional benefits of listening to music. Scientists have found that listening to music lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, stimulates recovery in stroke patients, lowers the need for pain medication after surgery, and improves the sleep of depressed patients. All of these benefits result from the connection between music and the brain.
Listening to slow, calming music can help you relax and slow down your breathing and heart rate. Researchers have found that 60 beats per minute is the ideal tempo for relaxation. If you want to boost your mood, on the other hand, any music that you enjoy will do the trick. Chances are the benefits will last for quite a while even after your playlist has ended.
Nourish Your Body
Eating comfort food is a natural reaction to stress because food that is high in sugar, salt, and fat works to lower cortisol and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. However, a regular diet of comfort food can lead to obesity and major health risks.
Instead of turning to ice cream and french fries in times of turmoil, consider choosing foods that are high in complex carbohydrates (like oatmeal and strawberries) and healthy fats (like salmon, avocados, and nuts). If you're craving sugar, try fresh or frozen fruit instead. Finally, if you're getting your caffeine from coffee and sodas, try switching to tea. Black tea, in particular, has been shown to help people recover from stress more quickly than other types of beverages.
1 The Effects of Stress on Your Body, https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body
2 10 Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress On-the-Spot, https://elementsmassage.com/issaquah/blog/10-relaxation-techniques-to-reduce-stress-on-the-spot
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune diseases, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
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Webinar: Eight and One Half Steps to Relieve Stress
Facilitator Libby Wright discusses the physiological effects of stress and how we perceive situations with participants of the Your Best Weight program. She provides practical tips for managing stress that everyone can do. The webinar last for 17 minutes and addresses questions submitted by the program participants.
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