April is National Stress Awareness Month

Stress is an automatic, instinctual response by the body and brain to help us respond to any demand, commonly called a 'stressor.' The brain is triggered to release hormones that increase some bodily systems (circulatory) and repress others (immune, digestion) to enhance our ability to respond successfully. Stress is normal and affects everyone. Not all stress is bad, but long-term stress can be debilitating and can cause and/or aggravate health problems.

Since stress is a normal part of human existence (nobody is immune to it), it is important to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we recognize when stress rears its ugly head. (Amazingly, we don't always notice it's happening to us.) Stress Awareness Month happens each April. Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations can go a long way in living a healthy and positive life.

Effecting More than Just Your Mind

Stress does not merely afflict our minds; it can also affect us on a cellular level. Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression - even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can manifest from uncontrolled stress. When we are placed in a stressful situation, specific stress hormones rush into our bloodstream leading to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. This is helpful in emergency situations but having this "rush" for extended periods of time can be dangerous and make us susceptible to the issues mentioned previously. Understanding the mind/stress/health connection can help us better manage stress and improve our health and well-being.

Learn to Overcome Issues You Can Not Change

Sometimes the stress in our lives is not something we have any power to change - it is during these times that it is vital to change our approach to situations. Try to…

  • Recognize when you don't have control, and let it go.
  • Avoid getting anxious about situations that you cannot change.
  • Take control of your reactions and focus your mind on something that makes you feel calm and in control.
  • Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth, and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.

Tips for Coping with Stress

Too many of us are missing out on life due to stress, but there are steps you can take to manage stress and its negative effects. You cannot eliminate or change stress, but you can change how you react to it. Some ideas on how to fight stress are to:

  • Stay Positive: Every day, as often as possible, think about and be grateful for all of the amazingly wonderful things in your life: a comforting love, a good job, or a great vacation. Practice gratitude for the things you take for granted, like a roof over your head, food in your fridge, or modern medicine. Enjoy the small stuff: coffee already made when you get to work; the first robin of spring; a funny cloud that makes you laugh.
  • Meditate: When you are feeling stressed, take time throughout your day to do some deep breathing and relax. Try to clear your mind, rid yourself of all negative thoughts, and breathe in positive energy. Practice mindfulness, being aware of your surroundings, other people, and what you do and say. Try journaling thoughts and events to help you understand their significance, learn from them, and then let them go.
  • Make Healthy Choices: You do not need to join a gym and work out 2 hours a day to stay active. Take a daily walk...or 2...or 3. Adopt a healthy way of eating, avoiding refined sugars and carbs and processed foods. Fight stress by sticking to a diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Lastly, give your body the time it needs to recover by getting adequate rest.
  • Try a Social Detox: Unplug from the world. Put down the devices, and better yet, turn them off completely. Try to go as long as possible without looking at social media, texting, tweeting, or using any electronic communication or entertainment. Enjoy the beauty of the present.
  • Enjoy Stress Relievers: What do you like to do that will make you relax? Read a book, listen to music, paint, draw, sing, dance. Relax in a warm bath and indulge in some aromatherapy. Increase circulation and reduce stress hormones with some massage therapy. Whatever brings you contentment and peace, include it in each day.

These tips can help you learn how to overcome stress, but at Summit Medical Group, we understand that sometimes these things just aren't enough. Stress often leads to serious problems with both mental and physical health, so addressing your stress levels with a primary care physician is vital to identifying your individual stressors and creating a wellness plan to minimize the negative effects it can have on your overall health. Contact us today at 800-289-9545 to find a primary care provider neat you or visit our website for more information.

Together, we can make a difference.