How Stress Affects Your Health

Unless you are hidden away in a mountain retreat, I’m quite certain that you are feeling the effects of stress. We are aware of those moments when stress hits, and the physical and mental feelings it brings. Yet there’s a good chance that you are not aware of how stress affects your health.

You may think that decreased productivity at work, trouble sleeping, anger, headaches, and your frequent trips to the bathroom are separate issues. In reality they are all common signs and symptoms of stress.

Over time, chronic stress can lead to serious health issues, including depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and low thyroid function. Of greater concern these days is the fact that chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Stress can also impair your digestive system, leading to poor motility, leaky gut, or disrupted gut bacteria … and dis-ease.

It is shocking to learn that if left unchecked, chronic stress can contribute to a range of health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, lung disease and even cancer.

What can you do about it? Whatever the type of stress you are experiencing, taking steps to moderate it and give your body some respite is vital. Here are some natural strategies to lower your stress levels:

Try Meditation or Other Relaxation Techniques

Meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises help to modulate feelings of stress. Meditation lowers blood pressure, reduce resting heart rate, and decrease the body’s stress hormone, cortisol. I recommend you start by setting aside a few minutes each day to simply focus on your breathing without external distractions. I find exploring meditation is easiest when using guided meditations with either the Christian Abide app or the Calm app.

Unplug From Technology & Connect With Nature

Technology is entwined in our daily lives. Too much screen time can lead to increased stress and anxiety without our realizing it. Step away from your computer and phone at regular intervals during the day – yes, you will survive. Spending time outdoors offers several health benefits, which I’ve shared earlier this year. Can’t escape into a green space? Research suggests that simply looking at photos of natural settings can provide the “ahhhh” that relieves stress.

Talk to Friends and Family

Many of us realized during Covid-19 quarantines, how much of a role staying connected with family and friends played in effective coping strategies that reduced stress. The population groups across the world with the highest concentration of centenarians – those over 100 years old – prioritize family and social circles. This further affirms that social connection plays a significant role in overall health and longevity.

Stay Active and Exercise

Physical activity can improve your stress resilience. As we exercise, the body releases chemicals that can reduce anxiety and improve mood. Science has shown that adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of active movement each day to reap the many health benefits that exercise offers. The key here is finding a form of movement that you enjoy.

We all want to live life without the restrictions of disease. Understanding how stress affects our health and its hindrance to longevity can motivate us to take steps to moderate our stress and increase our resilience. Which of these strategies will you implement first to bring more “om” to your life?

Kelly Lutman Pursue Wellness

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