Manage Stress to Improve Your Health and Well-Being
Stress is inevitable and we all experience it daily. This, however, is not always a negative thing. Short bursts of stress can be beneficial, as it can help us to focus for better performance. For instance, an athlete may experience stress before a competition, which encourages them to perform better. However, chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental wellbeing.
Stress is a biological response to challenging situations, and it triggers the body’s "fight or flight" response. It is essential for survival, as it prepares us to face dangerous situations, physical or psychological. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, and anger manifest during stressful situations, and a cascade of hormones is released in response. These hormones include adrenaline and cortisol, which raise the heart rate, blood pressure, and increase our blood sugar levels.
While the short-term effects of stress can be beneficial, prolonged periods of stress can have a negative impact on our health. Chronic stress can result in emotional, mental, and physical problems that can affect our quality of life and may cause heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.
The negative effects of stress on the body are tremendous. Chronic stress can cause hypertension, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Stress also increases the level of LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decreases the level of HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol). High levels of unhealthy cholesterol can result in plaque build-up in the arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease. The negative effects of stress are often compounded by the bad habits we develop in our attempts to cope with it, such as excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking or binge eating.
But the good news is that stress can be managed, and there are simple and positive steps that we can take towards reducing it and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Below are some recommendations that can be helpful with managing stress:
1. Exercise regularly: Exercise is a natural stress reliever, as it releases endorphins, which improve our mood and reduce anxiety. Incorporating simple exercise routines such as walking, jogging, or yoga can do wonders for improving our physical and mental wellbeing.
2. Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help reduce stress. Eating healthily can also help us maintain a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of heart and metabolic disease.
3. Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can cause stress, anxiety and interfere with the immune system making us move susceptible to viruses and infections. It is important to aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to enable our bodies to better cope with daily stress.
4. Practice relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve wellbeing.
5.Socialise with family and friends: Spending time with loved ones can boost mental and emotional health, reduce stress, and enhance overall wellbeing.
In conclusion, stress can be beneficial in small doses, but chronic stress can have a serious and negative impact on physical and mental well-being. Taking positive steps to manage stress is essential for a healthier, happier life. If you are concerned about stress and its impact on your body and mind, speak to your doctor, who can help with advice and resources on managing stress and its effects on you.