Managing Stress Contributes to Healthy Living

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The world today seems like one constant activity. If we're not working, we're playing. If we're not playing, we're working. Seldom do we give ourselves an opportunity to unwind and rest from the cares of the world.

In fact, in a recent study it was shown that our average work week is now longer. Americans work 47 hours a week - 164 more hours a year than 20 years ago. This lifestyle, if not combined with adequate time to reduce stress can lead to headaches, sleep deprivation, feelings of anxiety and anger, and increased emotional sensitivity.

Often times, our behavioral response to stress is what can cause the greatest damage to our health. Do you ever find yourself doing any of the following to help calm down?
  • Eating even though you're not hungry
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol
  • Increasing your workload
  • Delaying doing things you need to get done
  • Changing your sleep patterns - whether it's an increase, decrease, or both
Incorporating healthy habits can help protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Here are 10 positive healthy habits you may want to start developing:

1. Talk with family and friends
Simple, friendly conversations with friends and family allow you to share your feelings, hopes, and joys.

2. Engage in physical activity
Consistent physical activity helps alleviate mental and physical tension. Physically active adults have lower risk of depression and loss of mental function.

3. Challenge your mind
Don't say, "I'm too old." You can still learn new things, work toward a goal and soon you'll accomplish it.

4. Remember to laugh
Laughter does wonders for your body and mind. Don't be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, funny movie, or comic strip - even when you're alone.

5. Give up bad habits
Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase stress. If you smoke, decide to quit now.

6. Slow down
Try to "pace" instead of "race". Plan ahead and allow sufficient time to get the important things done.

7. Get enough sleep
Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping, physical activity may help improve quality of sleep.

8. Get organized
Use "to do" lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Work on them one step at a time.

9. Practice giving back
Helping others helps you. Volunteer your time or do a favor for a friend.

10. Try not to worry 
The world will not end if your home isn't cleaned or if you grass isn't mowed. You may need to do these things, but today may not be the right time.

*The information above was sourced from the American Heart Association. For more information on stress management, click here.

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