By Dr. Michael Deanda, Medical Director at Pomona Valley Health Center La Verne
One of the best ways to manage stress and its effects on the body is to
become aware of it. Now is an ideal time to pause and assess your stress,
the toll it might be taking on your mental and physical well-being and
ways to better manage it.
What is stress?
Stress is the tension you feel when dealing with challenging circumstances.
Many people experience stress, but it affects everyone differently. What
causes you stress may not be stressful for someone else.
A lot of things can cause stress. You may feel stress when you go on a
job interview, take a test, or run a race. Short-term stress is normal
and even useful. In fact, it can help rev you up if you need to work hard
or react quickly.
Stress also can be long-lasting. Long-term stress is caused by demanding
situations or events and can be harmful to your health. Examples of long-term
stressors include chronic health problems, sustained problems at work,
or family conflicts.
How does your body respond to stress?
When you experience stress, your body responds as though you are in danger
by producing hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster,
and give you a burst of energy. This is called the “fight-or-flight”
stress response. If the episode ends quickly, your body returns to normal.
But if you are experiencing stress frequently or for long periods of time,
it can have negative effects on your health.
Long-term stress can make you more susceptible to illness and increase
the severity of symptoms of some diseases. Stress is linked to high blood
pressure, heart disease and mental health issues. It can make you moody,
tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and your performance
at work or school may decline.
How can you manage stress?
Be active. Exercise can help reduce stress. Not a runner? Walking is a great way
to get started. Just 30 minutes of walking a day is a great way to improve
your mood and reduce your risk for chronic diseases. Stretch and yoga
classes are another great option for managing stress.
Write. Journal about things that are bothering you. This can help you recognize
when you feel stress and the triggers that may be causing it. When you
know the cause, you can find better ways to cope and manage its effect.
Do something you enjoy. Listen to music, go to a movie or read a book. Practice your hobby or
do volunteer work. Spending 15 minutes a day on something you enjoy can
help alleviate the effects of stress.
Meditate and Breathe. Mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises can help you relax and
become more aware of your body. These practices can help you identify
areas that are holding tension, lower blood pressure and promote better
Stress Prevention Tips
One way to limit the negative effects of stress on the body is to avoid
unnecessary stress. Here are a few ways to help manage stress before it starts:
Time Management. This helps you find time to do the things you want and need to do. Some
ways to manage your time are keeping a calendar that includes blocking
out time for exercise or other activities you enjoy, not overcommitting,
delegating your time and eliminating distractions.
Rest. Your body recovers from the stresses of the day while you are sleeping,
so make sure you are getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night.
Support System. Your family, friends, community or even a counselor or therapist can
help you manage stress. If something is bothering you – let it go
by talking it over with someone you trust.