Fighting rush-hour traffic. Taking a test. Worrying about money. While never fun, stresses like these are a normal part of life.
“It’s our body’s response to something that’s upsetting our balance,” Mary Hannah, RN, manager of population health at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, said.
But too much stress can contribute to hypertension and other medical conditions. Stress also increases cortisol, a hormone that can trigger weight gain and fat storage. To avoid these consequences, try these strategies:
Take a Deep Breath (or Several)
When acute stress strikes, take slow deep breaths and focus on a single object.
Understand Where the Stress is Coming From
Identify and acknowledge the stress. Prioritize and triage sources of stress, and eliminate or delay things that do not need immediate attention. For example, don’t stress about a presentation that’s happening next week while you’re worried about getting dinner on the table tonight.
If you’re cooped up inside all day, getting outside in nature is a great way to decompress. Pay attention to your surroundings and take some deep breaths of the fresh air.
Make Meditation an Option
While all of these strategies are great for short-term stress relief, meditation might be one of the best long-term solutions to stress. Meditation and yoga have both been shown to calm the mind.
Engaging in exercise is a fantastic way to reduce stress. More importantly, however, is finding an exercise that’s enjoyable. It could be dancing, basketball, bike riding, running, weightlifting, or something else. Whatever it is, if you enjoy it, it’s more likely the habit will stick.
Always remember, stress is a normal part of life, no matter who you are. If you’re finding it especially difficult to manage your stress levels, be sure to talk to your primary care doctor who can work with you to put together a personalized stress-relief strategy.
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Maryland’s Health Matters, the official magazine of University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. Start reading the latest issue on our website.