No matter how hard we try to avoid it, in today’s fast-paced society, stress seems to go with the package.
Stress can have a serious impact on your health. “Stressful lifestyles are linked to a variety of medical problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive problems, cancer, sleep deprivation and a failed immune system,” said CHI St. Alexius Health Physician Afaq Sharieff.
Most of us have some stress in our lives. When symptoms begin to impact our physical and mental wellbeing and ability to function, it may be time to seek help.
Symptoms of stress
The following telltale symptoms indicate stress is taking a toll on your health.
- Heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate or feeling like your heart is racing
- Feeling exhausted or having trouble sleeping
- Headaches, dizziness or shaking
- Stomach or digestive issues
- Sex-related problems
- Anger, irritability or restlessness
- Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated or unfocused
- Constantly worried or racing thoughts
- Problems with memory or concentration
Successfully managing stress requires being aware of a problem and making an effort to minimize the sources of your stress.
Practicing the following can reduce the stress in your life.
Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet with lots of proteins, fruits and vegetables. Commit to not overindulging in snacks, junk food and fast food, which can lead to more stress and guilt.
Make exercise a daily priority. Strive for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise as well as flexibility and strength training. Exercise has been shown to elevate endorphin levels that improve mood, help alleviate stress and depression, improve cardiovascular health and boost the immune system.
Plan ahead. Make some time for meal planning, shopping, preparing meals, exercise and personal time. Try writing them into your schedule to minimize the stress of fitting them in your day.
Take time to relax. Care for yourself and de-stress, even if it’s 15 minutes a few times a week. Read, go for a walk, take a yoga class or listen to soothing music.
Do the hard things first. Structure your day so that you can work on the most difficult tasks during the time of the day when you are at your peak.
Distract yourself with other activities. Do things you enjoy. Watch a funny movie, enjoy a favorite hobby or spend time with loved ones.
Journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings so you can understand them better. It may also help you identify the sources of your stress and triggers, so you adjust in your life to diffuse those problem areas.
Seek professional help if you:
- Tried these solutions and have made no progress in reducing stress levels
- Develop a drug or drinking problem
- Suffer from irritability, edginess and poor eating habits
- Struggle with productivity at work and make unnecessary mistakes
- Feel like your family life, work and/or personal relationships are falling apart.
“Don’t be afraid to seek help,” said Sharieff. “Counselors and mental health professionals are trained to help you find ways to cope and better manage stress in your daily life.”