Forty-three percent of American adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
With the dark cloud of inflation, threats of monkeypox, and the potential return of a more virulent COVID-19 virus over our heads, stress and anxiety have become increasingly formidable foes.
Suffering from stress and anxiety interferes with your immune system, says Ellen Kamhi Ph.D., founder of Health Realizations, and causes other health problems.
"It makes you more vulnerable to illnesses like the flu, it impairs your body's ability to respond to its anti-inflammatory signals, putting you at increased risk of allergies, autoimmune diseases, and heart disease," she said.
Stress can also trigger or worsen diabetes, added Kamhi, author of "The Natural Medicine Chest."
"When your body is stressed, it releases stress hormones that automatically secrete extra sugar into your bloodstream," she said.
Recent studies suggest that stress accelerates aging, and a recent APA study says that people with chronic stress are more likely to suffer from age-related disease such as Alzheimer's, major depression, osteoporosis, and metabolic syndrome.
Stress can even impact your weight. The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) found that the greater the stress in a woman’s life, the greater her weight. This was true even after other factors such as exercise habits, diet and smoking were accounted for.
While stress can't be eliminated completely, Jessica Cording M.S., RD., and author of "The Little Book of Game-Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress and Anxiety," told Newsmax that adopting positive changes into their lives has helped her clients deal with stress.
Here are 7 stress-reducing tips:
1. Exercise. Exercising increases the level of endorphins in your body, which stimulates your immune system, reduces stress, and improves your mood. Exercise also helps strengthen the heart and lungs, two organs that may be affected by excess stress, notes Kamhi.
2. Get plenty of sleep. When we sleep, the stress hormone, cortisol, is lowered. But when we are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. According to Cedars-Sinai, for most adults the amount of sleep needed for optimum health is seven to eight hours. When you get less, as many do, it can lead to health problems such as forgetfulness, the inability to fight infection, mood swings, and depression.
3. Plan your meals carefully. "Make sure that your meals provide a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates with half your plate for both lunch and dinner being vegetables," says Cording. To make life easier, prep your veggies once or twice a week so that the peeling and chopping are already done.
4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Numerous studies have shown that becoming even a little dehydrated can increase the levels of cortisol. "Make it convenient to drink by having a bottle you like to use, setting alerts on your phone, or establishing a habit of drinking water at regular times each day," Cording says.
5. Laugh. Laughter not only reduces stress and anxiety, it can also bolster your immune system, says Healthline.
6. Spend time with friends and family. Studies have shown that spending time with friends and children releases oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. Kamhi adds that building strong friendships can help reduce negative feelings and boost your mood.
7. Put yourself on your calendar. Take time to practice self-care, whether it's scheduling a massage or simply taking a walk in nature, says Cording.
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