10 Health Problems Related to Stress That You Can Fix
10 Health Problems Related to Stress continued...
Still, you might be wondering why. Why would stress make us sick? Why would an emotional feeling wreck havoc on our bodies?
Stress isn't only a feeling. "Stress isn't just in your head," Winner says. It's a built-in physiologic response to a threat. When you're stressed, your body responds. Your blood vessels constrict. Your blood pressure and pulse rise. You breathe faster. Your bloodstream is flooded with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
"When you're chronically stressed, those physiologic changes, over time, can lead to health problems," Winner tells WebMD.
Stress Management Works
While the number of health problems related to stress might be alarming, don't despair. Studies suggest that stress management techniques will not only make you feel better, but they might have concrete health benefits.
For instance, one study of heart attack survivors found that taking a stress management class slashed their risks of a second cardiac event by 74%. There's even some evidence that stress management will improve immunity.
Still, many of us remain skeptical about stress management. After all, our lives are just plain stressful. We have busy jobs, families to raise, tight finances, and no time to spare. Stress management might seem like a nice idea, but completely impossible.
It's true that you might not be able to remove all the stressful things from your life. But you can change how you respond to them, Winner says. That's what stress management is all about. Learning some basic stress relief techniques isn't difficult, either.
4 Ways to Fight Back Against Stress -- and Improve Your Health
The next time you feel stressed, here are four stress relief tips you can try.
Breathe deeply. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can calm you and tame the physiologic stress response, Winner says. While building in a specific time to relax each day is a good idea, one advantage to deep breathing for stress relief is that you can do it anywhere -- at your desk or in your (parked) car, for instance.
Winner recommends that as you breathe out, you relax a specific muscle group. Start with the muscles in your jaw. On the next breath out, relax your shoulders. Move through the different areas of your body until you're feeling calm.
Focus on the moment. When you're stressed, you're probably living in the future or the past. You're worried about what to do next or regretful about something you've already done. To get some stress relief, instead try focusing on what you're doing right now.
"You can calm yourself by bringing yourself back to the present moment," says Winner. "If you're walking, feel the sensation of your legs moving. If you're eating, focus on the taste and the sensation of the food."
Reframe the situation. So you're already running late and then find yourself stuck in terrible traffic. Getting worked up is a natural reaction, but it won't help you at all. Rather than swearing and pounding the steering wheel, get a different perspective. Look at that time as an opportunity -- a few minutes to yourself where you don't have any other obligations.
Keep your problems in perspective. It might seem Pollyannaish, but the next time you're feeling stressed out, think about the things for which you're grateful.
"We get stressed when we focus so much on a specific problem that we lose perspective," says Winner. "You need to remind yourself of the basic ways in which you're lucky -- that you have family and friends, that you can see, that you can walk." It can be a surprisingly effective method for stress relief.