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5 Ways to Lower Stress Levels

February 25, 2014

High levels of stress can make the brain and body work overdrive. When this happens, we experience a “flight or fight” response that pushes us to reach beyond our normal limitations to ensure we can handle stressful situations. While the short-term effects of our overdrive system can produce positive and surprising results, continuing to push stressors to their limits over extended periods of time is extremely dangerous for the mind and body.

What’s a Stressor?

A stressor is anything that stimulates a stress response—a feeling, memory, place or situation. A particular season or certain sounds and smells can be stressors. The death of a loved one, financial problems, relationship issues, losing a job or other major life changes are common stressors.

Over time, high levels of stress and unchecked stressors can lead to serious health problems. It’s important to treat this condition before it leaves a negative lasting impact on our health, relationships or quality of life. The various physical, mental and emotional repercussions of untreated stress include:

Cognitive Symptoms:
  • Concentration problems
  • Negative attitude
  • Memory issues
  • Racing thoughts
Emotional Symptoms:
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Depression
Behavioral Symptoms:
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Turning to alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs
Physical Symptoms:
  • Indigestion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Frequent colds
  • Aches and pains

The Role of Stress In Substance Abuse

Many individuals use substances as a way to cope with stressors. One of the first studies to explore the effects of traumatic events on substance abuse patterns found respondents experienced high levels of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an extreme increase in alcohol and marijuana abuse following 9/11.

Teens with chronic stress are twice as likely as teens with lower stress levels to use drugs or alcohol. Peer and societal pressures, family issues and bullying are other sources of stress for adolescents.

Substance use is an extremely common yet unhealthy way to deal with stress and trauma. While using drugs or alcohol can temper issues temporarily, emotions are only quelled on the surface while the long-term consequences can mean addiction, and even death.

5 Ways to Lower Stress Levels

1) Improve you nutrition. The foods you eat are directly tied to the way you think and feel. Eating healthy and nutritious foods plays are major role in your brain and body’s ability to handle stress.

2) Boost your level of activity. Exercise is a great way to boost your endorphins, relieve stress and maintain overall health.

3) Develop a healthier emotional well-being. Feeling overwhelmed? Help mange your emotions by writing in a journal or talking it out with a trusted friend, family member or professional counselor.

4) Practice relaxation techniques. Meditation, prayer and breathing techniques are healthy ways to help you re-balance re-energize.

5) Get more rest/sleep. Not getting enough sleep can have detrimental effects on your mood and stress levels. While each individuals requires a different amount of rest and sleep, it’s crucial to plan your days so you can get the amount you need.

How do you manage your stress? Leave your comment below!

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