Despite being a known risk factor for a number of different physical and mental health detriments, high stress levels are normalized and even upheld at times in our society. With this in mind, it can be easy to overlook the risks affiliated with stress, but don’t be fooled – stress is nothing to ignore. Although some stress is to be expected and even positive at times, prolonged or long-term stress comes with a host of potential negative health outcomes.
What Can Stress Do To The Mind And Body?
We all know that feeling stressed isn’t fun, but the perils affiliated with prolonged stress move far beyond that. Risks affiliated with stress include but are not limited to:
- An increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
- An increased risk of depression
- Trouble sleeping
- GI problems or distress
- Accelerated aging and premature mortality
Perhaps less surprisingly, stress can also cause relationship problems and other concerns. Stress has even been named a hazard in the workplace by the OSHA. If stress is ruling your life, it’s time for the cycle to end. So, what can you do?
Using Stress Management To Decrease Your Risk
Here are some research-backed ways to help yourself manage stress and decrease your risk or stress-related health detriments:
- Exercise. Exercise is a common way that people cope with stress, and of course, it has a number of different benefits. Whether you go for long walks in nature, a sport of choice, running, yoga, or something else, implementing exercise into your routine is an excellent way to take care of your emotional and physical well-being and cope with stress.
- Socialize. Socializing is crucial for our mental and physical well-being, and spending time with positive, uplifting loved ones and friends is an excellent way to de-stress, remember what matters in life, and take care of yourself. Research indicates that spending time with friends can help reduce levels of stress and anxiety, so don’t forget about the people who matter in your life if you find yourself facing stress.
- Schedule. If you find yourself overwhelmed or overworked, taking the time to implement a schedule with time for self-care, rest, and relaxation is important. If you find that something in particular in your life is contributing to stress – let’s take work as a common example – you may find it beneficial to set a schedule for yourself where you, say, don’t reply to emails after 6 PM and reserve that time for family and relaxation instead.
- Sleep. Make sure that you have a schedule and routine that allows for adequate sleep. Like stress, not getting enough sleep has a host of potential health detriments, and missing even 1 to 2 hours per night puts you at a higher risk of getting into a car accident. A lack of sleep can cause changes in mood and make it more difficult to manage stressors.
- Use self-talk. Self-talk is a crucial skill. Positive, compassionate self-talk can help you work through cognitive distortions, sources of anxiety or nervousness, and so on, that impact your stress level. This can be particularly beneficial if you find yourself worrying frequently or facing negative thoughts that increase your stress, disrupt your sleep, or impact your life in other ways.
Many people also find that practices such as meditation, journaling, or engaging in activities and hobbies they enjoy helps to reduce stress. It is vital that you have something to look forward to in your day, whether that is working on an art project, playing a sport, spending time outdoors, playing a game with your family, or something else. Life is more than your stressors, and your health, your output at work and other endeavors, your interpersonal relationships, and every other facet of your life will benefit from taking care of yourself and working to reduce stress.
How Counseling Helps With Stress
Forms of therapy or counseling such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT are known to help people navigate and cope with stress. It’s crucial to have a support system, and many individuals find that a counselor or therapist is an important part of their support system. Counseling and therapy give you skills that you can use for the rest of your life; not just while attending sessions. Your therapist or counselor can help you figure out what works for you in terms of stress management, and they can help you work through any concerns that are affecting your stress levels. They can also help you learn to implement things like self-talk, creating a schedule or routine, sleep, and boundary setting into your life that can support your pursuit of stress reduction and overall well-being.
Whether you see a mental health counselor or therapist online or in your local area, you deserve to get the support that you need and take care of your mental and physical health. When you use an online therapy platform like MyTherapist, you can get started more quickly than you can with typical in-person counseling, and it’s often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling is in the absence of insurance. An added bonus is that you don’t have to deal with the burden of traffic and long commute times. Online therapy makes it easy to work taking care of your mental health into your schedule, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
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