By Dr. Sarah E. Laibstain
Stress is a normal part of day-to-day life, often caused by heavy workloads, traffic-filled commutes and even interpersonal relationships. Although the human body is designed to cope with moderate stress, continuous unrelenting stress can lead to a wide range of health issues and physical symptoms. In order to educate the public on the causes and complications of stress, The Health Resource Network has sponsored National Stress Awareness month every April since 1992. This year, take time to reflect on the potentially harmful stressors in your life, and consider some of these proven methods to help relieve tension!
While it may sound counterintuitive, there are actually positive forms of stress which keep us alert and high-performing. For example, receiving a promotion may trigger mild stress that results in motivation to achieve results. The negative effects set in once a person encounters multiple stress-triggering situations with the absence of rest or relief in between.
A state of heightened stress can result in an array of complications including headaches, abdominal pain, acne breakouts, muscle tension, and fatigue. Indirectly, stress may have severe long-term effects contributing to unhealthy habits, such as a poor diet and lack of exercise, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Chronic stress may also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse in addition to worsening existing conditions like asthma and anxiety. Though it would be nearly impossible to avoid stress altogether, there are actions one can take to help manage the stress.
First and foremost, learn to recognize your personal stress triggers. You may have more influence than you realize over certain things. If you overwhelmingly dread your morning commute, consider leaving 15 minutes earlier and see if there is improvement. Additionally, practicing meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are all proven to relax the mind and body. If you don’t have the time or budget to participate in a class, find an online guide and dedicate five minutes of your lunch break to total relaxation. Finally, try to temporarily unplug from your phone. Even if it’s just for a few hours, eliminating the distraction of a smart phone can be instrumental in achieving peace of mind.
It’s undeniable that slowing down can sometimes feel impossible, but it’s also necessary to try to address the needs of your mind and body. Let National Stress Awareness Month serve as a reminder that taking the time to evaluate your stress now can likely save you additional strain in the future.
Dr. Sarah E. Laibstain is a general family medicine practitioner at Family Medicine Associates of Texas in Carrollton. She thoroughly enjoys improving the health and lives of individuals ranging from young children to adulthood. For more information, call 972-394-8844, or visit texasmedicine.com.