By Brigitte Cutshall
Were you aware that chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of health issues? Heart disease, cancer, stroke, lower respiratory disease, and accidents. Chronic stress can affect your brain, raise your blood pressure, and reduces your immunity and ability to heal.
At least 75% of doctor office visits are for stress-related complaints stemming from job stress. It's a $1 trillion per year "under the radar" health epidemic according to Peter Schnall, author of Unhealthy Work.
The cost to treat those with chronic diseases (from stress) is about 75% of the national health expenditures per the CDC. Chronic diseases cause 7 out of 10 deaths each year - but are preventable and treatable.
Chronic stress not only affects the physical aspects of your life such as health or general energy level, but it can affect job performance and personal relationships. For this reason, every person needs a stress management strategy, a way to focus on personal empowerment and feelings of "loss of control" in check.
Dealing with cancer twice and a brain tumor diagnosis confirmed that I can't take anything for granted. I want to be there for my family, watch my kids grow up and thrive. This reality made me stop, take a step back and evaluate my life, intentions and overall goals. Developing a stress management strategy was important. My curiosity also led me to become a certified health coach and health advocate.
Here are 6 essential tips I recommend to help you develop a stress management strategy:
- Remember to Smile. A smile simply helps you enable the positive aspect of a situation. That optimism helps you cope better with a stressful moment. Smiling can change your emotional response and speeds recovery when a stressful experience is over.
- Get up and move. When you feel stressed, take a break and go for a walk outside to get some fresh air. Physical exercise helps stabilize stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. That movement boosts oxygen levels and your body makes the feel-good chemical, endorphins, as a result. Bonus: regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.
- Establish a daily relaxation routine. Deep breathing is the fastest way to help you relax. We tend to have shallow breaths when stressed. Deep breathing adds oxygen to your bloodstream and helps clear the mind. I prefer the 4-7-8 Method. Sit up in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and place hands on top of your knees. Breathe in while counting to 4 slowly, expand your lungs fully; hold for 7 counts; then exhale out slowly while counting to 8. Repeat.
- It's okay to Say No. When you say yes to everything, it comes with a price. You increase the stress levels by trying to meet the extra demands on your time. Protect and manage the time you have and don't feel guilty about it. Learning to say "no" to unimportant requests is not going to be a deal-breaker.
- Get to Know Real Food. A healthy diet can help counter the effects of stress by boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Eating the right food can help tame stress in several ways. Eating comfort food - like a bowl of warm oatmeal - can boost serotonin levels, which is a brain chemical that calms you down. Other foods - like fruits and vegetables - help reduce the stress hormone levels of cortisol and adrenaline.
- Embrace your relationship with sleep. This is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself. Lack of sleep is a key cause of stress and can become a vicious cycle. Aim to go to bed around the same time each day so that your mind and body develops an expected routine. Don't rely on sleep medication and maximize your relaxation right before you go to bed.
Feeling stressed is normal. The key is focusing on what you can do to gain control and keep the responses in check.
Brigitte Cutshall is a Media Solutions Consultant and a Certified Health Coach and a two-time breast cancer survivor and living with a benign brain tumor. Brigitte obtained her Health Coach Certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition based in New York. Brigitte is the author of "Real Things: 6 Ways to Embrace Life" published April 2015. For more information visit www.brigittecutshall.com and http://realthings.guru/. Connect with her on Facebook. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.