Is stress hurting your health?
For most American adults, the answer is "yes." A 2012 survey from the American Psychological Association found that 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
The most common sources of stress include jobs, money, and relationships, which most of us can't avoid. But understanding more about the condition can help you relieve it.
Common signs of chronic stress
April is National Stress Awareness Month, and Dr. Jennifer Hanes, a physician on JustAnswer, offered a few specific warning signs that you may have chronic stress:
- You wake up without feel refreshed
- You feel sluggish during much of the day
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Frequent moodiness, notable sadness, or quickness to anger
- Skin irritations or lackluster hair
4 keys to managing stress
Dr. Hanes, also author of "The Princess Plan" weight-loss book, recommended these four healthy steps for dealing with stress:
Set aside time every day for movement. "I avoid calling it exercise because it need not be 'aerobic' or 'aggressive.' Merely 20 minutes spent walking outdoors is best, but if that is not feasible then two 10-minute sessions of stretching or light weight exercises. These help reduce the circulating hormones of stress and keep the resulting inflammation at bay," said Dr. Hanes.
Start eliminating sugar and processed foods from your diet. "Some patients I have cared for were unaware they went days in between eating any fresh fruit or vegetables. Even just simple changes -- like adding one fruit per day or drinking iced tea instead of soda -- can dramatically impact the effects. Junk food and stress both cause inflammation in the body, the reason people feel the effects. Therefore, diminishing the amount of inflammation in the body from diet can help to mitigate the effects of emotional or physical stress."
Keep a journal of your entertainment. "For just a week, try switching from crime and reality shows to a good natured comedy or an uplifting movie. Laughter is a wonderful stress reducer. Additionally, turn off the nightly news and anger inducing radio programs. Again, these only serve to increase stress levels."
Limit social media. "Through the anonymity of the computer, people are drawn into arguments or believe every negative article because it appeared on their social-media sites. Set a timer and allow only those precious minutes to be used to connect with friends, rather than stress."
For more ideas for how to deal with stress in your life, see this article at the American Heart Association.