Lower Stress: How does stress affect the body?

lower stress

Feeling stressed out? It can have lasting effects on your health and wellbeing. But there are ways to manage stress and its symptoms that can help you feel better.

Stress Stinks! What Can You Do About It?

Stress is a fact of life. A 2017 American Psychological Association survey found that a whopping 80% of respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month.1 Does this describe you?

Sometimes we stress over good things, like a long line at a brunch spot, a new job, an upcoming wedding, or a new baby. And other times it’s over not-so-good things like being sick, working too much, or family drama. 

Stress can affect your mental and physical health in so many ways.

Long-term activation of your body’s stress response system, along with prolonged exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, may put you at risk for health troubles like:2,3

  • digestive problems
  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • weight gain
  • memory and concentration issues
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease and stroke

So what can we DO about stress?

You want to avoid all these, right? Us too! Luckily, small changes are easy to try. We even have a nifty list! Let’s get started:

Get giggling. Make silly faces with the family, have a staring contest, watch videos of babies and puppies – whatever gets your belly moving, try blowing off some steam with some laughs! Bonus points if you laugh till you cry.

Let’s list. Making a list can help you decide what’s actually important to do today so you don’t feel buried all the time. Added bonus? You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you cross things off as “done.” We can practically hear you saying “aaaahhhhh” already.

  • Find a friend. Take a 60-second social break to message someone with a “Hello!” And hey, if it turns into a longer chat, we won’t tell!
  • Move more. Movement is good for your heart and your mind. Dance like crazy to get the funk out, try hula hooping, briskly walk around the block and listen to the birds, or take that hip-hop class you’ve always wanted to try. Move for at least 10 minutes or more. Bonus points if you laugh while you’re moving! 
  • Get your butt in bed. Getting enough sleep can help you feel less cranky and overwhelmed, and more productive and creative. If you want all that, you gotta get to bed earlier! Turn off the screen(s), you can binge-watch your show and earn more XP tomorrow. Sleep experts suggest aiming for about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.4 See you in the morning, sunshine!
  • Be with your breath. You’ve been breathing your whole life, but learning to focus on your breath can actually trigger your body’s relaxation response. According to Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and Harvard Medical School professor of Mind Body Medicine, diaphragmatic (deep) breathing is one of several ways to elicit the relaxation response.5 Try it! You’ll be getting your Zen on in no time.
    • Get comfy and take a normal breath.
    • Next take a deep breath slowly through your nose, filling up your chest and belly. Let your belly really puff out – we promise, you don’t look fat!
    • Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or nose, whichever) and repeat.

De-stressing shouldn’t stress you out. Which one are you going to try now: giggling, socializing or moving?

Let’s do this, and be Healthy For Good!

 

Last reviewed 7/2017

 

1American Psychological Association 2017 Survey Report, Stress in America: Coping with Change http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2016/coping-with-change.PDF.

2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, Stress and your health https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/stress-and-your-health

3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coping with Stress https://www.cdc.gov/Features/CopingWithStress/index.html.

4National Sleep Foundation, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

5Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response.