Thursday, December 13, 2012

How Stress Affects Your Health

Whether it's a short-term frustration like a traffic jam or a major life event like divorce or job loss, psychological stress can affect our bodies. 

Stress can be highly personal, with one person's unpleasant experience another's exhilarating adventure. And a little bit of stress is thought to be good for memory and motivation. However, about 70% of doctor visits and 80% of serious illnesses may be exacerbated or linked to stress. 

Stress is Sabotaging Your Diet Success

In a recent poll, 85 percent of women said that worries interfere with their ability to catch zzz's, while 71 percent say they're more irritable due to stress.

If there's one thing that gets in the way of you being your healthiest, it's stress. For anyone who's found themselves standing in front of the freezer inhaling spoonfuls of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream (not my real name!) to avoid finishing a project, or waking up three times in the wee hours of the night in anticipation of a difficult conversation, here's some not-so-shocking news: Research shows that anxiety can make you sleep fewer hours, get sick more often, remember less, become more prone to long-term disease and—as if you needed reminding—eat more. No wonder up to 90 percent of doctor visits are for stress-related complaints, a fact that I suspect too many of you know firsthand (though you experience it as GI distress, back pain, a headache or other physical symptom). 

In a recent poll, 85 percent of women said that worries interfere with their ability to catch zzz's, while 71 percent say they're more irritable due to stress. And given the recent headlines about the state of our economy, it's not surprising that 52 percent of women say they are under considerably more stress than they were six months ago. (What is your stress level?)

Grim, yes, but there IS hope. Just as our bodies are wired to react to stress, we're all also programmed to know how to wind down, whether it's by watching a funny movie, sitting in the sauna, sipping some chamomile tea (while dunking a cookie, of course!) or drinking a glass (or two) of wine with dinner. These activities switch on the brain's pleasure centers, blocking the production of the stress hormone cortisol and churning out happiness-inducing chemicals like serotonin instead. 

When I feel a tightening in my back or neck coming on, I cope by doing things I love, like going for a long, slow run in the park with my dog. Try a few of these instant soothers, and watch your own stress go from ARGH! to Ahhh. 

Turn up the tunes. 
Listening to music that has a steady (not frenetic) beat may cause brain waves to keep time and relax you, research from a music symposium at Stanford University in California reports. Load your iPod with a playlist of the songs that make you happiest. 

Phone a friend. 
Pouring your heart out to pals can help you cope with bad feelings and brainstorm new ways to solve problems. And don't forget to return the favor: Lending an ear and offering support can make you feel needed and reduce anxiety. (Or drop them an e-card to say thanks!)

Break a sweat. 
Exercising for 30 minutes makes your body release chemicals that dull the physiological effects of stress response for up to a full day. But the effect only works when the activity is something you really want to do, so make sure you're psyched about channeling your energy in that cardiovascular direction. 

Use a better bulb. 
Outfit your office lamp with an incandescent bulb, particularly if your cubicle is brightened by fluorescent lights. Incandescent and fluorescent lights work together to more closely mimic outside light. And it's sunshine (or the perception of it) that regulates the body's biorhythms. Not getting enough of it can affect hormone levels, suppressing the immune system and increasing the probability of mood swings, depression and sluggishness. 

Pamper yourself.  
Whether you get a pedicure or splurge on a blowout, giving yourself special treatment reduces your blood pressure and gets your mind off what’s bothering you. Science supports this coping mechanism as well: A warm bath can activate neurons that increase serotonin, and a study from Bowling Green State University in Ohio found that a 15-minute massage can significantly cut anxiety levels. Not up for a splurge? Get the same effect from an at-home pedicure, manicure or blowout.

Dine by candlelight. 
The effect won't just make you look gorgeous. The dim setting actually signals your brain to release melatonin, the good-for-you sleep hormone which ensures a better night's rest. And catching enough zzz's helps keep your stress levels under control and your immune system humming. Can't sleep? See what your stress dreams are trying to tell you.

Snuggle with your sweetie. 
A simple 20-second kiss or hug increases endorphin levels, while having sex releases more calming hormones than any other form of sex play, researchers at the University of the West of Scotland at Paisley note. 

Keep a journal. 
Jotting down your stressful thoughts can help you look at them more logically, potentially easing anxiety, mentally and physically. A study in the Journal of Health Psychology finds that a mere month of expressive writing can help reduce hypertension. Keep a pretty notebook handy at all times. 

Anticipate something awesome. 
Or something tiny that makes you smile. The point is to look forward to something each day, whether it’s enjoying your morning java or counting down to an exotic vacation. Practicing this will keep your mind from focusing on what could go wrong that day. 

Exhibit your exhilarating moments. 
Tape up pictures of three amazing days you’ve experienced, such as dancing at your wedding or crossing the finish line of a half-marathon. Honing in on the images for at least 10 seconds can lower muscle tension and stabilize your heartbeat. 

Give someone props. 
Go on, pay a compliment to someone deserving. Research has shown that the more warm personal connections you make, the better your body is at jettisoning the effects of stress. 

Stress-eater? Snack away the tension with these stress-busting foods.

How to Be Stress Free in a Minute

Go Physical
Expert Kathleen Hall sheds light on this trick emphasizing on its importance. If you feel stressed, do nothing but standup and start your favorite exercise. Simple exercises, such as sit ups or pushups are very easy and can be done anywhere. Feeling stressed while working on a new project? Stand up and start jumping and you will notice a huge change in your mood.

 Yes, you can get rid of stressful moments in just a minute by using our simple tricks given below. Unfortunately, stress is a daily part of our life. It doesn't matter what kind of things we deal in, we have moments that leave us stressed and distressed.

Living a stressful life has several disadvantages. It is important to be happy and get rid of the stress. Given below are some simple tips that will help you do so.