7 Ways to Spring Back From Stress
Stress is an immediate biological response designed to protect you from imminent danger, but it’s unhealthy over longer periods. When the response kicks in, here’s what is happening in your body:
- The brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol, primary stress hormones.
- Adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure and gives you a surge of energy to act.
- Cortisol adds glucose to the bloodstream, enhances the body’s use of it, and simultaneously suppresses systems that are not essential to keep you out of harm’s way, including the digestive, reproductive and immune systems.
The stress response is a protective biological response that is beneficial in small doses, but too much causes wear and tear on your health.
- Acute stress symptoms include irritability, tension, digestive problems, elevated blood pressure and chest pain.
- Continued, unrelenting pressure over time can be physically and psychologically debilitating, resulting in a weakened immune system, heart disease, obesity, depression and suicide.
- Chronic stress is strongly linked with insomnia. More than 40 percent of American adults say they lie awake at night due to stress. See Sleep Benefits article.
Here are seven stress-relief practices to try:
1. Exercising is one the best ways to ease tension and feelings of depression:
- It releases feel-good chemicals in the brain while suppressing others that are linked to depression.
- It provides a distraction, boosts self-confidence and gives you a chance to socialize.
- It increases your body temperature, which can have a calming effect.
2. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, listening to music and getting a massage can be calming.
3. Healthy eating can have a positive effect on your mood by boosting feel-good serotonin while stabilizing cortisol (stress hormone) and blood sugars. Whole grains and healthy fats are a good choice, as are vitamin-rich fruits and veggies.
4. Sleep alleviates stress. Here’s how to get a good night of it:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time each night.
- Take a hot bath or have a hot cup of tea or milk to wind down.
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night (adults).
- Create a cool, dark and quiet space to rest better; ban TV and other electronic gadgets.
5. Prioritize your tasks and set limits to avoid taking on more than you can comfortably handle.
6. Volunteer more often. Helping others can help take your mind off your own worries and provide you with a support network. And it feels good.
7. Ask for help. Chronic sufferers who lose sight of hope or stop searching for relief may need the help of a mental health professional to get better.