Monday, December 14, 2009


Are you feeling stressed out these days? If so, you’re not alone. A recent poll showed 8 in 10 Americans say that they feel stressed out. Based on my conversations with people from all walks of life, I tend to agree with the poll results. Given the state of our economy and the magnitude of challenges that our country faces right now, it is understandable that people are anxious and feeling stressed.

Stress, on a small level, is a good thing in that it triggers a rush of adrenaline to help deal with issues. Prolonged stress however can lead to health problems. So what are some simple things that you can do to help reduce your stress level?

LAUGH! Indeed, laughter can sometimes be the best medicine, as borne out by a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic. Laughter can help to relax muscles, reduce blood pressure and increase heart rate, increase oxygen to organs, and relieve tension. It also increases the release of brain chemicals known as endomorphins, or the “feel good” chemicals. So watch a funny movie or surround yourself with people who have a good sense of humor that will make you laugh. Keep in mind that laughter is contagious, so the more the merrier. You’ll be helping yourself as well as others.
EXERCISE. Like laughter, exercise has the same benefits of laughter with the added plus of keeping your body in shape. Exercise does increase the release of endomorphins. Have you ever noticed how you feel better after exercising, whether it be a brisk walk or a work out in the gym?
SOCIALIZE. Isolation can tend to have people focus on the negative and the feeling that they are alone in dealing with stress related issues. By socializing, you may find that you are not alone and discover some tips that others have found helpful in dealing with difficult situations. Being with others may give you the opportunity to laugh more or find more enjoyment in exercise, both of which are helpful in reducing stress.
EAT AND SLEEP WELL. Stress often leads to poor dietary habits and disrupted sleep, both of which can lead to a vicious cycle. Some of us react to stress by not eating enough and others eat too much. Likewise, stress can affect sleep, with some sleeping too little and others sleeping too much. Recognize which type of person you are and monitor your diet carefully, focusing on foods that are good for you and making sure that you are getting the right amount of calories and nutrition. Eating too soon before bedtime can interrupt sleep. Exercising during the day, but not before bedtime, can also help to give you a better night’s sleep.
TRY TO KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Notice that I said “try”. With what some people are facing, that may not be easy if you don’t have a job and are trying to figure out what bills you can or cannot pay. Nevertheless, it is still important not to “sweat the small stuff” and recognize things that you can or cannot change. Once you understand what you can change, you will feel a sense of empowerment as opposed to helplessness in a situation. This ties back to socialization, where talking to others can help you find some solutions to stressful situations. Also, consider volunteering your time for a cause you support. This can help increase your interaction with others and give you a sense of helping others, another “feel good” situation. If you are currently unemployed or underemployed, this is also something good to fill gaps in time, get yourself out of the house and shows well on resumes during a job search.

Hopefully, these simple tips can help you reduce your level of stress. If stress has taken over your life, it is recommended that you consult your doctor, since it can lead to health issues, depression or chronic anxiety.

Here at the Y, we are a community of caring people who support families, build character and promote wellness. We offer the opportunity for you to exercise, socialize, laugh and volunteer. Stop by and see how much better you might feel!

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