Coping with Stress In Our Lives

Kathleen Remington is a senior consultant with the Employee Assistance Program at Intermountain Health.

Stressful situations in life are often unavoidable. It is common to feel stressed at times. Three out of four adults experience stress-related health effects. Stress is a physical response to challenging circumstances in your world, and can result in physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms. Stress is different from anxiety, which is a psychological reaction characterized by excessive apprehensiveness about real or perceived threats. 

Overwhelming as it may feel, reducing and preventing stress with stress management practices can help us cope and lead healthier lives. Tools may include a healthy diet, mindfulness, exercise, spending time in nature, and talking with friends. 

Be active 

Physical activity can help to reduce stress, by pumping up feel-good endorphins and boosting your sense of well-being. Focusing on activity can improve your mood and help irritations go away. Consider taking a walk, running, working in your garden, cleaning your house, biking, swimming, weight training, vacuuming, or doing something to get you moving. 

Eat a healthy diet 

A healthy diet is important in taking care of yourself. It helps promote wellness, and weight management by including a wide variety of healthy foods. Add an array of colors to your plate and think of it as eating a rainbow of foods. Dark, leafy greens, oranges, and tomatoes, even fresh herbs, are loaded with minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Adding frozen peppers, broccoli, or onions to stews and omelets gives them a quick and convenient boost of color and nutrients. 

Some people may manage their stress by developing unhealthy habits. These habits may include drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, smoking or vaping, eating too much, or using illegal substances. These habits can harm your health and increase your stress levels. 

Use deep breathing and mindfulness 

During mindfulness or meditation, you focus your attention and quiet the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing you stress. Mindfulness can give you a sense of calm and help to balance your emotions. You can practice guided meditation or try walking meditation. During a walking meditation, you can pay attention to each or your senses for a minute at a time. Try an app to show you how to do these exercises.  

Laugh out loud 

A good sense of humor will not cure your ailments, but it may help improve your mood. When you laugh, it can lighten your mental load and promote positive relaxation.                                            

Connect with others 

When you are stressed or irritable, you may not feel like you are the best company. Try reaching out to family, friends and neighbors to make social connections. Having just one good friend who listens to you can make a difference. 

Social contact is a good stress reliever because it can offer distraction, give support, and help manage life’s ups and downs. Try taking a coffee break with a friend or neighbor, emailing a relative or visiting your place of worship. 

Got more time? Consider volunteering for a charity and help yourself while helping others. 

Kathleen Remington is a senior consultant with the Employee Assistance Program at Intermountain Health.  

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