It’s probably safe to say that most of us deal with a pretty fair amount of stress. Living in the Bay Area (and, in general, people who live in cities) we are exposed to many different stressors, in many different arenas in our lives. We all know the major culprits of this stress as well; rent or mortgage, commuting, jobs, childcare, the list goes on and on. Everyone of course has their own personal stress, and handles it (or doesn’t) differently. Over time, everyone who experiences chronic stress will feel the effects of their stress on the body and mind. Chronic stress does not affect only your emotional and mental health, but it has real physical ramifications as well. When we are under stress, our body’s parasympathetic nervous system is engaged. What this means is that your “fight or flight” response is switched on, resulting in flow of adrenaline and cortisol, which raises your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as slowing down digestion. Chronic stress can lead to hypertension, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disorders, as well as taking its toll on the mind, causing anxiety and depression. Chronic stress can open the door to a whole world of health problems. Some people may not even realize that they have chronic stress, but it is important to take care of ourselves, in mind and body. We are not always able to change our situation, but we can take steps to help reduce stress in our daily lives.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep – This may be easier said than done, but getting consistent sleep is extremely important for reducing stress (and for helping pretty much everything else too). Improving sleep hygiene and going to bed at the same time every night works wonders!
Exercise – Just like sleep, getting consistent exercise will help improve your stress, by flooding the brain with all of the chemicals that just make you feel good, like endorphins and dopamine.
Be Nice to Yourself – Seriously! Taking a time out for yourself everyday, even if it means just sitting quietly in your favorite place, or acknowledging your work for the day…you deserve your love and attention as much as anyone else!
Cut Back on Caffeine and Alcohol – Although during stressful times we may want to increase both caffeine and alcohol, they can exacerbate your symptoms and actually magnify your stress.
Enjoy Life! – Not unlike improving your sleep, this is not as easy as just saying, “Life is great” because, let’s face it, it’s not always that way. However, trying to maintain a positive attitude can do wonders to make you feel better on a day-to-day basis.
For more information on how to cope with stress and other mental health issues, please visit the American Psychological Association