Take Time to Unwind
Thursday, April 13, 2017
April is National Stress Awareness Month, which means it's time to take a look at the role stress plays in our lives and find ways to reduce it. No one is immune to stress — and how we react to it and deal with it matters. There is some good news, however; a recent study shows that Minnesota is ranked as the least stressed state.
A little bit of stress can actually be good for us; it provides energy and keeps us aware of everything going on in our lives. But even though stress is a daily occurrence for all of us, it's important to keep it in check. Stress can go much beyond affecting how you feel. It can also take its toll on your health. In fact, long-term stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses—from headaches to stomach disorders to depression—and can even increase the risk of serious conditions like stroke and heart disease. Understanding the mind/stress/health connection can help you better manage stress and improve your health and well-being.
The human response to stress is a survival mechanism that is hardwired into our nervous systems. This automatic response is necessary for quick reaction to avoid imminent danger, such as swerving to avoid a car crash. When you perceive a threat, stress hormones rush into your bloodstream—increasing heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. Other hormones also suppress functions like digestion and the immune system, which is one of the reasons why chronic stress can leave you more vulnerable to illness.
While danger triggers the stress response, unfortunately, so can work conflicts, concerns over debt, bad memories or anxiety in general. Although one bad day at work won't compromise your health, weeks or months of stress can dampen your immune response and raise your risk for disease.
The best way to celebrate Stress Awareness Month is to remove as much stress as you can from your life. Take a few minutes and think about where your stressors lie, then work to remove them or lessen their effects. Exercise is an excellent stress reliever.
While you can't avoid stress, you can minimize it by changing how you choose to respond to it. The ultimate reward for your efforts is a healthy, balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun.
Minnesota's Area Agencies on Aging, in partnership with the Minnesota Board on Aging, provide a free information and assistance service – the Senior LinkAge Line® that helps older adults and their caregivers with a variety of aging issues. Call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433 or visit us online at MinnesotaHelp.info®.