It’s probably not a surprise that stress levels in the United States are increasing. A report issued by Harvard Medical School and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill revealed that 55% of respondents felt more stress in May than in January.
Here at American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, our team sees increasing stress levels in our patients and their health effects. Our goal is to help you and your family lead healthy, active, and fulfilling lives. Stress management is a critical part of protecting your well-being.
Feeling stressed is a normal human emotion and reaction. It’s part of your fight-or-flight response that helps you identify and react to potentially dangerous situations. Everyone feels occasionally stressed about various things, including new jobs, getting married, getting divorced, health, and routine responsibilities.
When you start to feel stressed, your body goes through some physiological changes. Your central nervous system gets the process started and signals to your adrenal glands that its time to release adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones. As a result, your heart rate and respiration increase, and your body prepares for action. When the perceived danger passes, your body returns to normal functionality.
The stress response in the human body is a throwback to when humans had to run to avoid danger, which was relatively short-lived. Today, the most common stressors are pervasive and almost always present.
As a result, your brain doesn’t signal that the danger has passed, and your adrenal glands continue to release your fight-or-flight hormones. This leads to several physical and mental health problems ranging from headaches, heartburn, and gastrointestinal issues to fertility problems, a compromised immune system, and high blood pressure.
Fortunately, you can take steps to lower your stress levels and protect your health.
If possible, go outside for a half-hour every day. The fresh air, sunshine, and opportunity to move your body help stimulate your endorphins — the feel-good hormones. We’ve all been spending much more time at home than we’re used to, and you might be feeling a little stir crazy. Going outside can relieve some of the monotony of being indoors all the time.
Your diet affects many aspects of your health and wellness. Overeating sugar, salt, and fat can interfere with your energy, hormone production, and mood. It can also trigger inflammation, which leads to other health complications. Try to create meals from fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. Of course, you can have an occasional treat, but your diet shouldn’t be 90% ice cream.
On average, Americans get 6.8 hours of sleep each night. The general recommendation is to aim for seven hours of sleep, but everyone has unique needs. If you feel sleepy, distracted, or irritable during the day, you might not be getting enough high quality sleep. You can improve your sleep by avoiding screens for an hour or so before bed, creating a soothing nighttime routine to help you wind down, and avoiding eating for a few hours before bed.
Modern life is pretty stressful, but you might be able to eliminate or minimize stress. For example, if reading or watching the news increases your stress levels, limit how much and when you do it. You can also avoid people who stress you out and pare down your to-do list to reduce the demand on your time and attention.
You might also find it helpful to talk about your fears and other feelings. You could even journal, draw, or express yourself in different ways. You can also assert your needs — if you don’t say what you need or want, the other people in your life won’t know.
If you notice physical or emotional stress symptoms, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Our team can help you identify your stressors and create personalized stress management programs to help you feel better. Don’t let stress build up only to get you down; give us a call, book online, or come into our office for expert care.