Simplify Your Life and Dial Down Stress Levels
It seems like everyone is stressed out these days – from your co-workers, to your friends, to the person standing next to you in line.
Stress, by itself, isn't necessarily bad. Low or even moderate amounts of stress can be good for us, provided we manage it in healthy ways. But poorly managed stress can take a toll. Heart disease, fatigue, and obesity are just a few of the potential consequences. If stress is bothering you, consider the following ways to regain control:
- Recognize your symptoms. Your signs of stress may be different from someone else's. Some people get angry. Others have trouble concentrating or making decisions. Some feel worried or depressed. For some, stress leads to physical symptoms such as headache, back pain, upset stomach or trouble sleeping.
- Identify the sources. What situations trigger your stress? Among other things, your stress may be linked to your family, health, work or personal relationships. Keep in mind that stress is often caused by a change in your life, negative or positive. Marriage, divorce, job loss or a promotion may all increase stress.
- Evaluate your coping strategies. Examine the ways in which you deal with situations that cause you stress. Responses like smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating too much may feel good in the short run, but they can cause long-term harm.
- Learn to say "no." Sometimes the best way to deal with unnecessary stress is to avoid it. Know your limits, and refuse to take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
- Plan ahead. Don't let your to-do list get out of control. Think about your day, and decide which tasks are the most important. Do those items first. Let other tasks drop to the bottom of – or even off – your list.
- Create time to relax. It's not always easy, but it's important to make time for yourself. Take vacations or other breaks. Make time to read a good book, listen to music, watch a comedy or just have a warm cup of tea. Some people find deep breathing exercises helpful for relieving stress.
- Exercise regularly. A brisk walk, a bike ride and a trip to the gym are just some of the physical activities that can help prevent or reduce stress. Aim to get 2 hours and 30 minutes of exercise each week. Talk to your doctor before increasing your activity level.
- Eat healthfully. Eating balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day will help you cope with stress by keeping you energized and focused. Also, cut back on caffeine. You'll feel more relaxed and will likely sleep better.
- Talk to family and friends. Simply talking with supportive people can often bring stress relief, even if the stressful situation doesn't change. By the same token, limit the time you spend with people who only add to your stress.
- Get help. If stress seems overwhelming, consider talking to a mental-health professional. He or she can offer healthy stress-busting techniques.
By Rod Murphy, myOptumHealth