02 Aug Is Stress Affecting Your Health
By: Dr. Damon Daniels
We live in a society that is full of stress and pressures. It seems as if the days by go very quickly because we live in an age of INFORMATION OVERLOAD. In addition, the average person in America deals with more financial and personal relationship issues like never before. In fact a recent survey by the American Psychological Association called the “Stress in America” report revealed the following:
- Women, younger Americans and parents report higher stress levels and are more likely to report have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month than Americans overall.
- On average, Americans rate their stress level as a 4.9 on a 10-point scale, where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” down from 6.2 in 2007. Yet reported stress levels remain higher than what Americans believe to be healthy — 3.7 on a 10-point scale.
- Forty-two percent of adults say they are not doing enough or are not sure whether they are doing enough to manage their stress, and 20 percent say they are not engaging in an activity to help relieve or manage their stress.
- The most commonly reported sources of stress include money (64 percent report that this is a very or somewhat significant source of stress), work (60 percent), the economy (49 percent), family responsibilities (47 percent) and personal health concerns (46 percent).
- The most commonly reported symptoms of stress in the past month include feeling irritable or angry (37 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (35 percent), having a lack of interest or motivation (34 percent), fatigue (32 percent), feeling overwhelmed (32 percent) and being depressed or sad (32 percent).
- Forty-one percent of adults who are married or living with a partner say that they lost patience or yelled at their spouse or partner due to stress in the past month and 18 percent of those who are employed said they snapped or were short with a coworker.
How Stress affects your Body
There are several physiological effects of chronic stress on the body. Most of those affects are related to a hormone that the body releases during times of stress. This hormone is called CORTISOL. Cortisol is released in response to events such as waking up, acute stress, exercising or fight-or-flight responses. A problem with cortisol levels develops when the hormone becomes CHRONICALLY elevated.
Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels: interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy. Two separate studies were published in Science linking elevated cortisol levels as a potential trigger for mental illness and decreased resilience—especially in adolescence.
Try these tips below to improve the way you manage your STRESS.
- Regular Physical Activity- Studies show that regular exercise for about 30 minutes at 3-4 days per week helps to naturally lower cortisol levels. Simple things such as walking, biking, or light cardio on exercise equipment can be an excellent stress reliever.
- Social Connectivity – Several studies of mice reveal that social isolation leads to aggression and elevated cortisol. In addition, human studies suggests that people that are more socially connected through friendships, social clubs, and group religious activities tend to have lower cortisol levels and increased levels of healthy hormones.
- Laughter – Studies over the past 30 years suggests laughter reduces stress hormones. Make it a goal to add laughter in your laugh every day.
- Music – Music can improve mood and reduce stress. There is no indication that a particular style of music is better than another. Simply choose the music that you like. It appears that a variety of songs is better than listening to the same music over and over.
- Avoid a Diet High in sugars and processed carbohydrates – Foods high in sugar will elevate your insulin levels and keep your blood sugar levels out of balance. Insulin levels negatively affect your cortisol levels.
- Eat a diet with small frequent meals that are balanced with protein, healthy carbohydrates and healthy oils – Healthy oils are primarily found in Olive and Canola Oils. If you like to fry foods – Use these oils instead. Healthy Carbohydrates include whole-wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, lentils and beans, fruits. Snacks like popcorn are healthy and packed with good carbs.
Hopefully these tips can help you manage your stress load better and live a more balanced life.