Most of us experience stress. The economy may be hitting hard. A lot of people worry about keeping their job. Raising kids can be tough. That is why it is so important to develop healthy habits for fighting stress.
When you’re stressed, your body is on high alert all the time. As part of its natural “fight or flight” reaction, the body releases large amounts of hormones that cause your heart to beat faster, your blood pressure and blood sugar to go up, and your immune system to respond more slowly. Prolonged periods of stress can lead to serious problems such as insomnia, indigestion, depression, and even weight gain and heart disease.
Adopting positive lifestyle habits can make stress much easier to handle and keep you in better health so that you can weather life’s ups and downs. Here are 10 positive habits, adapted from the American Heart Association, to work on developing one-at-a time:
- Talk with family and friends. A daily dose of support and love is great medicine. Call, email, text, or write your family and friends to share your feelings, hopes, and joys.
- Be active every day. Regular physical activity relieves tension in your body and mind, lowers your risk of depression, and keeps your brain functioning normally. Physical activity also is fun. Try walking, swimming, biking, dancing, or gardening every day.
- Accept things you cannot change, like your age. Don’t fret about getting older – embrace every day. You can learn new things, work toward a goal, love, and help others.
- Remember to laugh. Laughter makes you feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud at a joke, a funny movie, or a comic strip. Laugh when you’re alone and when you’re with others.
- Give up the bad habits. Too much alcohol or caffeine can increase stress. And if you smoke, decide to quit now.
- Slow down. Try to “pace” instead of “race.” Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done.
- Get enough sleep. Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can’t sleep, take steps to reduce stress and depression. Physical activity also may improve the quality of sleep.
- Get organized. Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Approach big tasks one step at a time. For example, start by organizing just one part of your life – your car, desk, kitchen, closet, cupboard, or drawer.
- Practice giving back. Volunteer your time or return a favor to a friend. Helping others helps you.
- Try not to worry. In time, things always get better.