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Identifying What Makes You Worried and Stressed
In small doses, stress can be healthy and inspiring. When you stare down a difficult run on the ski hill, wait behind the curtain before you step out to give a speech, or walk into a new job for a first time, the butterflies you feel in your stomach are caused by stress. A little stress fires us up and gets us ready meet new challenges head-on.
Unfortunately, too much stress has the opposite effect, and can result in serious health consequences, as discussed above.
Humans tend to feel stress any time we experience change or loss. Common sources of stress including negative events, such the loss of a friend or family member, a serious health problem, a traumatic event such as a crime or natural disaster, or financial difficulties. Positive events such as starting a new job, getting married, or moving homes can also be very stressful because these events involve both the uncertainty of new situations, and the loss of the familiar.
Work and school are major sources of stress for Americans, with 40% of Americans experiencing stress at work, and 80% of college students saying that they feel stress sometimes or often. Stress at work and at school can have many causes, and many are similar: worries about performance, interpersonal struggles with colleagues and bosses (or fellow students and teachers), financial worries, and overwhelm from too much to do and too little time to do it.
Worry about the news and world events, as well as the personal effects that larger forces may have, are also major sources of stress. For people in marginalized and minority communities, worries about the news may be more urgent: these groups are more likely to be affected in difficult economic times, and are likely to experience more negative effects from climate change and pollution.
Whatever the cause of your stress, it can be managed. Simple self-care strategies can help you manage stress and perform at your best. In addition to following the self-care suggestions laid out in the next section, consider talking to a therapist or a life coach about your specific stressors. These experts can help you navigate your specific situation and teach you coping skills that are tailored to your own strengths and weaknesses.
If you are in serious distress, speak to your doctor. There are many treatments that can help manage the negative effects of stress on your body, and help you feel better soon.
Finding Peace in the Chaos
While there are many relaxation techniques that can help you find calmness and control in the midst of chaos, the simple truth is that most of our health comes down to four simple practices: sleeping well, exercising, eating well, and forging meaningful connections with others. If you don’t have these four parts of your life under control, start there.
Adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep each night, teens need eight to ten, and school-aged children need nine to eleven. Sleep is essential for our health, mood, and cognitive function. A lack of sleep increases your risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, mood disorders, and dementia.
In addition to the long-term effects, a lack of sleep lowers your productivity and reaction speed to a similar degree as alcohol. Studies show that after 17-19 hours without sleep, driving ability is impacted as much as a blood alcohol level of 0.05, the legal limit in many places. It’s simply impossible to perform well when you are overtired.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, getting more should be your number one priority. Without enough rest, it’s impossible to relax and find calmness in your life. To improve your sleep:
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
Keep your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67°F (15-19°C)
Stop using screens, electronics or TVs for an hour before bed
Develop a soothing night-time ritual, such as reading a book, taking a bath, or sipping chamomile tea
Consult your doctor if sleep problems persist. There are many techniques that can help you get a better night’s sleep.
When you are stressed, your body prepares for physical battle. This is known as the “fight or flight” response, and it occurs when your body releases stress chemicals, including cortisol and adrenaline, in response to a stressor. These chemicals help us fight our enemies, but if they circulate in our blood stream for too long, they can cause inflammation and a variety of health problems.
Fortunately, any kind of exercise or physical activity helps your body burn off stress chemicals and return to a relaxed state. In addition to lowering your stress levels, getting enough movement in your day helps keep your weight steady; lowers your risk of heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes; strengthens your bones and muscles; improves your mood; and keeps your brain and memory sharp as you age.
While exercise is one of the best ways to improve health, lower stress levels, and stay youthful, only 20% of Americans get the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate movement in per week. That’s just 20-30 minutes of walking, most days of the week.
If you don’t yet get 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, start moving today! Whether you walk, run, bike, swim, dance, garden, or just play with the dog, the activity doesn’t matter as long you get your heart pumping. The key to sticking with an exercise plan is finding something you enjoy doing. If 20-30 minutes is too much right now, just do what you can. Even a couple of minutes is better than nothing – every bit counts!
What we eat dramatically affects our health, mood, and cognitive function. A poor diet raises your risks of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, and dementia. In contrast, eating well helps keep us healthy and combats the effects of stress on our body. Yet, in America, only one in ten people get the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day.
Simply by adding a serving of vegetables and piece of fruit to each meal, most Americans would feel a big improvement in their health, energy, and wellbeing.
Even though – or maybe because – most Americans don’t eat a healthy diet, we are surrounded by books, magazines, websites and social media filled with advice on exactly what to eat to get healthy, lose weight, make a million dollars, get famous, and walk on water. Despite the grandiose claims of most diet plans, the basics of healthy eating are simple:Other Details
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