Reducing Stress for Health and Well-being

Reducing Stress for Health and Well-being

04/16/14 James Winston

Stress is defined as anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being. We do need some stress in our lives otherwise we would feel bored and life would feel pointless. Nevertheless, most people find that there are too many stressors or stimuli in their lives that are causing stress and it builds when they are under pressure. We respond to stress with fight, flight, or freeze responses, similar to what animals do when under stress. Our body’s sympathetic nervous system reacts and produces cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline when stressed. These chemicals trigger higher heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and general alertness. Our non-essential body functions slow down such as our digestion.

Our response to stress can affect our physical health. We all respond to stressors differently with different degrees of distress. Our reaction to stress can affect our heart, other physical ailments, as well as lowering our immune system in some cases. Individuals may experience hypertension or high blood pressure, loss of libido, muscular aches, sleep difficulties, and stomach upset. In general, stress can be identified to cause other physical conditions or worsen them in most cases. Research has demonstrated that 80-90% of doctor visits are stress-related. Mentally, we are more likely to experience depression, irritability, problems concentrating, restlessness, and fatigue. Stress can also lead to substance abuse and relationship problems, as well as result from a variety of life issues that are very real such as death, family problems, and financial issues.

In order to deal with stress effectively, there are many tried and true options such as exercise, assertiveness, good nutrition, social connections or support, counseling, meditation, breathing, and relaxation exercises that can help. There is also cognitive behavioral therapy which helps us change errors in our thinking that perpetuate our response to stressors and cause us to worry or ruminate over stress. Seeking professional help can be instrumental in helping you reduce stress and find positive ways to gain the benefits of living a more balanced life. Finally, antidepressants can work with the body to function better in the areas of sleeping and eating. Antidepressants are non-addictive and a better choice than benzodiazepines.

Overall, it is essential to seek counseling and not to treat stress just with an antidepressant. National research shows many individuals start with antidepressants and then quit them in as few as 6 months because they think they feel better only to return to the original stressed state again. Both counseling and medicine can be the best intervention after you have tried other self-help methods such as exercise, diet, and relaxation techniques.

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