Stress is an inevitable part of life, and while some stress can be motivating and beneficial, chronic stress can have serious negative impacts on both physical and mental health.
Research has shown that stress levels have been on the rise in many countries, including the United States. The American Psychological Association's annual Stress in America survey found stress levels have been steadily increasing since 2016. In the 2022 survey, around 34% of adults reported that stress is completely overwhelming most days.
When stress becomes chronic, it can lead to a wide range of health problems, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Digestive problems
- Weakened immune system
- Mental health problems
- Sleep disorders
- Weight gain
- And associated metabolic issues such as Diabetes
Stress can also physically manifest in a variety of ways, including:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Muscle tension
- Chest pain
Chronic stress can also have a significant impact on mental health, contributing to the development of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, and insomnia.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce stress.
Different methods work for different people, here are a few of the most commonly recommended ways.
Exercise: Physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mood by releasing endorphins, the "feel-good" hormones. Even a short walk can be beneficial for reducing stress.
Relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Personally, I also find being in nature extremely relaxing and grounding.
Social support: Spending time with friends and family can help reduce stress by providing social support and a sense of connection. This is one of my favorite ways to manage stress.
Time management: Poor time management can contribute to stress. Prioritize your tasks and delegate, when possible, to help manage your workload (both personally and professionally).
Sleep: Getting enough sleep is important for managing stress. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Healthy eating: Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce stress by providing the nutrients your body needs to function properly (make an appointment with Dana Bosselmann, our Functional Medicine trained dietitian).
Hobbies: Engaging in enjoyable activities, such as reading, gardening, or painting, can help reduce stress by providing a sense of relaxation and fulfillment.
Therapy: Speaking with a mental health professional can help you learn coping strategies and develop healthy ways to manage stress. (call our office to make an appointment with Dr. Lisa Strohman, LifeScape's partner Psychologist)
My recommendation is to find methods that work for you, and try make them a regular part of your routine. If you are experiencing persistent stress, please talk with your LifeScape provider.
By taking steps to manage stress levels, you can help prevent the negative health outcomes associated with chronic stress and improve your overall well-being.