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We all experience stress, but what is stress? And why does it impact our well-being?

Stress is defined as “any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain.” This includes how the body adapts, positively or negatively, to demands.

Stress can be both good and bad. And there can be both physical and mental reasons for stress. For example, in the body, an example of a bad stressor is chronic illness while an example of a good stressor is exercise. Mentally, you might feel stress from worry over an issue, but you might also have a stress response to an overwhelmingly happy situation such as the marriage of a child or birth of a grandchild.

According to the Mayo Clinic, unchecked stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, as well as affect moods and behaviors and lead to anger, depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol abuse, social withdrawal and more.

When we are confronted with a demand, our pulse quickens, we breathe faster, our muscles tense, and our brains need more oxygen for increased activity. Stress can manifest as tension in the head, neck and shoulders, fatigue, forgetfulness, feelings of anxiousness, nervousness, or irritability. Chronic stress can lower immunity and cause our bodies to not work as best they can.

 The first step in controlling stress is recognizing what it is and what is causing it. Simply taking a deep breath when you recognize symptoms of stress can actually help!

Try the following to reduce stress:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Tai Chi
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Prayer
  • Eat a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables rather than sugar or other stimulants
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as: take a walk, do arts and crafts, watch a funny show, take a bath, sing, get a massage, and other activities that bring you pleasure
  • List stressors and then determine what can be changed
  • Get a good night’s sleep consistently

In some instances, it may be necessary and worthwhile to consult your health care provider for additional assistance with stress management.

While stress is not entirely unavoidable in life, we can choose how we react to stress as it comes up and how we care for ourselves. Don’t ignore your stress or hope it will just go away. Be aware of the symptoms and find positive ways to de-stress your life.