Stress is the physical and emotional result of perceiving that the demands you’re experiencing surpass your ability to handle them. Though a moderate level of stress can sometimes benefit you by boosting your energy and drive, an exorbitant amount can cause serious health issues. If your demands outweigh your ability to cope, here are five healthy actions to reduce your stress and prevent common complications associated with it.
1. Distance Yourself from the Source of Stress
Some stressors are difficult to get away from, like a crying child or a pending project at work, but for your own sanity allow yourself permission to take a break when you feel overwhelmed.
For two minutes or two hours (depending on whether or not the stressor you are taking a break from requires your attention to live) and do something else. Take a walk, go get an iced coffee, meditate, or just breathe deeply for 60 seconds. The pause will help you to gain composure or possibly a new perspective. Avoiding your responsibility altogether is never the answer but a brief break before you reach your boiling point can refresh you.
Physically working the body is one of the most recommended methods of coping with stress among health care professionals. Physical activity and exercise produce endorphins that behave as holistic painkillers, tending to that overall feeling of unwell that comes with stress.
Taxing the body also improves one’s sleep, which also combats stress. If you are experiencing stress it is likely because you are pressed for time, so finding time to exercise can be a challenge, but fitting in even a 20-minute swim, walk, run, or aerobics set in the middle of a stressful day can immediately create a state of composure and contentment that lasts for hours after.
3. Invest in Additional Health Coverage
Some individuals work in notoriously stressful fields or live in environments where stress is just the norm. If dealing with high stress is an inevitable part of your life, you may want to consider supplemental Medicare coverage for a couple of reasons.
First, living a high-stress lifestyle puts you at a higher risk of dangerous conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, obesity, muscle pain, anxiety, and depression, so the more stress you experience, the more medications you may require. Stress also weakens your immune system, which can invite a host of new health problems on board, so additional health care coverage like Medicare Part D, the plan that helps to lower prescription drug costs, is a logical decision.
Secondly, having supplemental coverage can also reduce stress over future finances by offering you security in knowing that no matter what medical issues you might face, you will be sufficiently covered and won’t have to stress about unexpected medical bills.
4. Laugh: It’s Still the Best Medicine
All jokes aside, laughter causes immediate physical responses in your body that alleviate stress. You breathe more deeply when you laugh, which stimulates your lungs and heart. Laughing also eases your muscles and stimulates circulation, which makes you feel relaxed. And those are just the immediate effects.
Laughter over time can improve your mood, relieve pain through bursts of endorphins, and boost your immune system through the release of neuropeptides that combat stress and illnesses. So whether you put on a favorite comedy flick or Zoom with that friend that makes you giggle like a teenager, your laughter heals you now and later.
5. Trigger Your Relaxation Response
The body’s fight or flight response is known as the stress response, and it has an opposing force called the relaxation response. Like the stress response, the relaxation response can be intentionally triggered. When you initiate the body’s relation response, you lower your heart and breathing rates and decrease your blood pressure and hormone levels. The overall result is, well, relaxation.
Triggering your relaxation response requires practice, though. Close your eyes while sitting in a quiet and comfortable place. As you deeply breathe, let go of the tension in your muscles one part of the body at a time while silently repeating a focus phrase — a mantra, word, prayer, or sound of your choice. If you are distracted by other thoughts, let them pass and return to repeating your focus phrase. A meager 10-20 minutes each day of this will condition your body to alleviate stress and relax. Long term effects include lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, regulating digestion, and reducing inflammation.
If life’s demands are more often than not surpassing your ability to handle them, then it is time to add to your anti-stress artillery. Remember to laugh or exercise, stimulate your relaxation response or take a short break, and start reducing stress in a healthy way today.