Work, family and personal relationships are three of thousands of reasons many Americans believe their level of stress is rising. Stress has been linked to headaches, fatigue, depression and heart disease, leading the American Psychological Association to declare that the nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis.
When you face a constant barrage of stressors, it can cause serious health issues.
Mark Senn, PhD, senior director of Beaufort Memorial LifeFit Wellness Services, believes living well starts with a personal commitment to health and well-being. It’s a commitment that means more than just eating and exercising.
“Physical activity is tremendously helpful at decreasing stress,” he says. “Also, we have control over how we respond to stress.” While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for stress, he says there are some very effective techniques that can help you combat that too-frazzled feeling.
Stress Buster: Massage
You likely know that massage can ease tense muscles, relieve headaches and reduce joint pain. What’s not so obvious is that it increases feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. In one study, heart rate slowed and the relaxation response kicked in after five minutes of massage. You don’t have to spend big bucks to feel the stress-busting benefits of massage. Have a friend rub your shoulders or give yourself a foot or hand massage.
Stress Buster: Deep Breathing
If you’re feeling stressed, you likely feel short of breath, too. Counter shallow breathing by taking several deep breaths. Each breath expands the diaphragm, lowers cortisol and blood pressure levels and slows the heartbeat. Inhale deeply through your nose, exhale slowly through your mouth, repeating at least six times. Taking deep breaths works well at work, at home and in morning-rush traffic jams.
Stress Buster: Exercise
Physical exercise produces uplifting endorphins and reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Even better, it offers long-lasting benefits, which can help you feel calm when faced with stressors in the future. Note that taking a long run is just as effective as taking a deep-stretch class. And a brisk walk around the block has the same stress-busting effect as a 60-minute spin class.