Understanding Stress to Live a Healthier Life

Understanding Stress to Live a Healthier Life

When it comes to living a healthier life, most people have a host of improvements they want to make. Because why not strive for healthy living? Regardless of what you might think, experts agree that the first step towards living a healthier life involves understanding stress. 

Knowing the ins and outs of stress sounds simple. But it’s actually pretty tough. It begins with realizing that not all stress is bad and that some stress is totally normal. Continue reading to learn how to distinguish between different types of stress and find out how to cope with stressors. 

Keep in mind that the average person in the United States lives about 79 years, which isn’t a lot of time. Take this opportunity to learn about your everyday life choices in relation to stress. Tweaking a few habits can help you live your best life and stay around a little longer. 

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Woman on a bike

Short-term Stress vs. Chronic Stress

According to research published by the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is simply the human body’s response to pressing demands. Work deadlines, school assignments, planning for a wedding, getting ready for the holidays, and preparing for fun birthday blowouts are just a few examples of common stressors. 

These stressors are called acute stressors. And the human body is ready to adapt to them. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and your rate of breathing may spike in the short-term. But these physical responses should normalize, especially after the big event wraps up.

But continuous stress can take a drastic toll on the human body. It can lead to loss of productivity, depression, and exhaustion. It can also cause inflammation in the circulatory system, heart attack, diabetes, chronic pain, and high blood pressure.

The important takeaway is that there’s a big difference between the stress that comes and goes after an important presentation versus lingering, debilitating stress that happens every time a nasty boss yells unconstructive criticism. 

Be prepared to recognize both acute stress and continuous stress. To help, we compiled a list of symptoms that stressed-out people commonly exhibit to help you avoid a meltdown or something more serious.  

Stressed woman

Recognizing Stress Symptoms 

Like it or not, stress is going to pound at your door. And it’s probably going to happen when you least expect it. The vast majority of men and women in this country have problems coping with stress and dealing with some of the negative side effects.

Research published by the American Psychological Association states that more than 75% of adults in America suffer from physical or emotional symptoms of stress. 

The first step is to fully accept the fact that you’re going to get stressed out at some point in the near future. Then be ready to acclimate yourself to these common warning signs.

Know what to look for before stress becomes a problem:

  • Chronic stress can and will appear in the form of a stomach ache, head ache, chest pains, nausea, or diarrhea. Whenever you notice one or more of these signs, consider making an appointment with a doctor and take some necessary time to unwind.  
  • Increased conflicts with coworkers, family, friends, classmates, or teachers are other warning signs that you’re stressed out, along with shortened tempers, unexplained anger, and crying for no reason. 
  • Trouble falling sleeping, abnormal dreams or nightmares, getting too little sleep, and oversleeping are also possible signs of stress. 
  • Personality changes are common when people get too stressed. Becoming more withdrawn, problems communicating, or requiring more attention than usual are just a few examples.
Stressed man in a jacket

Mitigating Stress to Stay Healthy

Recognizing when stress is at your door isn’t the only thing you can do to prepare for when stressors hit home. Take action before a wave of stress comes your way.

Here’s a number of healthy life choices that you can start making right now. While some of these suggestions may seem obvious, they will help you mitigate stress before it happens.

To lessen the negative impact of stress: 

  • Eat healthy foods including whole grains, lean protein, lots of vegetables, and a variety of nutritious fruits. Remember to stay away from saturated fats and trans fats. But some monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats are okay in small amounts. 
  • Avoid smoking or quit altogether to limit the toll that smoking-related health issues can cause on your mental and physical health. And remember that nicotine addiction will cause added stress, instead of minimizing it.
  • Stay mentally sharp by reading, listening to music, creating art, or learning new things, because stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain.
  • Get more sleep. While this may be the toughest tip to control for many people suffering from stress, it’s one of the more important. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try drinking chamomile tea, practicing  yoga, or meditating to increase your sleep time. 
  • Keep a steady social network. Engaging in social activities helps ensure that there are people are around who can help with tough decisions, give positive feedback, provide constructive criticism, and help you identify challenging opportunities.
  • Regularly see a doctor to help identify some of the physical signs of stress. It’s important to make sure stress isn’t taking a toll on your body without your knowledge. 
  • Exercise regularly by hitting the gym, going for walks, taking long runs, or whatever gets you outside of the house and breaking a sweat. Staying fit will keep your metabolism high and your heart healthy, which will definitely help when you’re stressed.

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