To Your Health: Fight stress with healthy habits
By the American Heart Association September 25, 2012 2:44PM
Remember to laugh. Laughter makes you feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, a funny movie or a comic strip, even when you’re alone. | File Photo
Updated: October 27, 2012 6:13AM
It’s important to recognize how stress affects you, learn how to deal with it and develop healthy habits to ease it.
What is stressful to one person may not be to another. Stress can come from happy events, such as a new marriage, job promotion or new home, as well as from unhappy events such as illness, overwork or family problems.
Stress is your body’s response to change.
The body reacts to it by releasing adrenaline, a hormone that causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These reactions help you deal with the situation.
The problems come when stress is constant and your body remains in high gear, off and on, for days or weeks at a time. Chronic stress can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
Of course, not all stress is bad.
Speaking to a group or watching a close football game can be stressful, but they can be fun, too. The key is to manage stress properly. Unhealthy responses to stress may lead to health problems in some people.
Stress affects each of us in different ways. You may have physical signs, emotional signs or both.
It can make you feel angry, afraid, excited or helpless.
It can make it hard to sleep.
It can give you aches in your head, neck, jaw and back.
It can lead to habits such as smoking, drinking, overeating or drug abuse.
You may not even feel it at all, even though your body suffers from it.
Healthy habits can protect you from the harmful effects of stress.
Here are 10 techniques to help you fight back when stress becomes overwhelming:
Talk with family and friends. A daily dose of friendship is great medicine. Call or write your friends and family to share your feelings, hopes and joys.
Engage in daily physical activity. Regular physical activity relieves mental and physical tension. Physically active adults have lower risk of depression and loss of mental functioning. Physical activity can be a great source of pleasure, too. Try walking, swimming, biking or dancing every day.
Accept the things you cannot change. Don’t say, “I’m too old.” You can still learn new things, work toward a goal, love and help others.
Remember to laugh. Laughter makes you feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, a funny movie or a comic strip, even when you’re alone.
Give up the bad habits.
Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase stress. If you smoke, decide to quit now.
Slow down. Try to “pace” instead of “race.” Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done.
Get enough sleep. Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can’t sleep, take steps to help reduce stress and depression. Physical activity also may improve the quality of sleep.
Get organized. Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Approach big tasks one step at a time. For example, start by organizing just one part of your life — your car, desk, kitchen, closet, cupboard or drawer.
Practice giving back.
Volunteer your time or return a favor to a friend. Helping others helps you.
Try not to worry. The world won’t end if your grass isn’t mowed or your kitchen isn’t cleaned. You may need to do these things, but today might not be the right time.
To learn more about reducing stress in your life, visit the American Heart Association’s website www.heart.org.