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ATLANTA—These days, many find it difficult to unplug. Inflation, global warming and gun violence are on the rise. Bullies spread on social media The 24/7 news cycle constantly reveals disturbing news and people often face difficult personal or professional situations.
About half of Americans say they’ve felt stressed in the past day, according to one Gallup poll survey As of last October, a finding that was consistent through most of 2022. Personal finances and current and political events were the top sources of stress for one-third or more of adults, a CNN survey in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation found in October.
Stress isn’t inherently bad, says Richard Scrivener, a personal trainer and product development manager at TrainFitness, an education technology company in London. Press your muscles through Weight training, for example, leads to beneficial changes. In addition, short-term stress is usually not dangerous in healthy people. “But if stress is persistent, especially in older or unhealthy individuals, the long-term effects of the stress response can lead to significant health problems,” Scrivener said.
Can stress make you sick?
Stress occurs when you’re faced with a new, unexpected or threatening situation and you don’t know if you’ll be able to handle it successfully, says clinical psychologist Dr. Carmel Choi, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General’s Center for Precision Psychiatry. Boston Hospital.
When you are physically or emotionally stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. Cortisol rushes through your system, signaling your body to release glucose. Glucose, in turn, provides energy to your muscles so you’re better prepared to fight or run away from a threat. During this cortisol rush, your heart rate may increase, your breathing may become faster, and you may feel dizzy or nauseous.
If you really need to fight or run away from a predator, your cortisol levels will return once the conflict is over. When you’re chronically stressed, however, those levels are elevated.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s not good to stay that high because high levels of cortisol can increase health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic gastrointestinal problems. stress Can also cause or contribute to anxiety, irritability, poor sleep, substance abuse, chronic distrust or anxiety, and more.
How to relieve stress
Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with stress. Keep a daily routine, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy food and limit your time following the news or engaging in social media, he advises. World Health Organization. It helps to connect with others and engage in calming habits such as Meditation and deep breathing. One of the most successful tools, though, is physical activity.
“Exercise is remarkably effective for managing psychological stress,” Choi said. “Exercise doesn’t eliminate stressors, but it can boost mood, reduce tension, and improve sleep—all of which are affected by stress—and ultimately it can help people approach their challenges in a more balanced way.”
Many studies back up the positive effects of exercise on stress. Physical activity, and especially exercise, significantly reduced anxiety symptoms a Study Published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, for example. Similarly, a Frontiers in Psychology Studies University students have been found to regularly engage in low- to moderate-intensity activities Aerobic exercise For six weeks it helped relieve their depressive symptoms and perceived stress.
Get moving to release feel-good chemicals
because Exercise is so effective Squashing stress is fairly simple. Exercise makes your body produce more endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that boost your mood. Movement combats high levels of the stress hormone cortisol while improving blood flow.
Jessica Honig, a clinical social worker in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, says exercise empowers her clients because they realize that, through movement, they hold the key to resetting and reducing their stress. “It’s one of the best ways to take a break — to break or reenergize a spiraling, unproductive mindset,” she said.
What type of exercise is best? Although studies show that aerobic exercise, such as swimming, running, dancing, and boxing, can be most effective at sending mood-boosting endorphins rushing through your body, gentle forms of physical activity are also effective. Think yoga, strength training and walking. Besides, sometimes less is more.
“What we’re seeing from the data,” Choi said, “is that you actually have to move less than the recommended guidelines? Positive effect on mood“
Because the stress load can vary weekly or even daily, Scrivener says it can be helpful to modify your exercise based on your mood. Feeling a pleasant 8 on a scale of 1 to 10? Then go for a run. Just hit a 3? Choose something gentle. “It could be a 15-minute stretch followed by a light cycle for 15 minutes, or a 30-minute swim followed by a sauna session,” she said.
Make exercise a social activity
Because social engagement is a powerful protective factor for positive mental health, Choi encourages exercising with others. Research has also shown Being out in nature Exercising outdoors with friends can provide even more benefits, as it boosts your mood.
Scientists continue to study the link between stress and physical activity. A Small studies Recent studies have shown that combining mindfulness and physical activity can improve sleep and help regulate emotions more than either alone, Choi said. He cautioned that people need to be careful not to overdo exercise or rely exclusively on it to meet challenges. Doing so can backfire and create more stress.
It’s also important to remember that people are physically ready to release stress, regardless of their age, says social worker Honig. “We see children allowing themselves to throw their bodies into pillows to express intense emotions,” she said. “We don’t increase the need to release stress physically. We just lose its outlet and social normalization.”