How to cope with stress
Stress, when left unmanaged can lead to health problems, say University of Alabama at Birmingham experts who have also suggested some ways to help deal with its negative effects.
While everyone responds to stress differently, common signs include changes in eating habits, feeling like you have no control, forgetfulness, headaches, lack of energy and focus, short temper, trouble sleeping, upset stomach and aches and pains.
And studies have shown that women experience more physical symptoms of stress than men.
“Women experiencing stress differently from men often has to do with the roles they impose on themselves,” explained Susanne Fogger, D.N.P., assistant professor in the UAB School of Nursing and a long-time psychiatric nurse practitioner.
But letting the pressure of this load continually weigh on the body can lead to trouble.
Fogger said that the first step to protect against the negative impacts of stress is to exercise.
“Getting active on a daily basis, even for just 30 minutes, helps people better manage stress. If your body is in better shape, with better muscle tone, it is better able to tolerate stress, whatever it is,” Fogger said.
Keep in mind, Fogger said, that you shouldn’t be exercising within a half hour of going to sleep, because the activity will wake you up.
Another way to reduce stressful sleep is by cutting out work within one to two hours of going to bed.
“Your brain needs time to unwind, and if you work close to bedtime your brain is still working. Don’t contaminate sleep time with work time,” Fogger suggested.
Also, consider what you are putting into your body. Fogger said it could help to think of your body as a car engine: good, clean fuel helps it run best.
So eat a balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods and limit the amount of high-glucose, high-carbohydrate foods you eat. And take it easy on the booze.
“People have this erroneous thought that alcohol helps you relax, but it is actually a depressant,” according to Fogger.
“When people use it as a way to de-stress, they end up consuming more than they anticipate. This can get them into a vicious cycle of overdrinking – and then when they withdraw off alcohol, this increases stress on the body because the liver has to work overtime to neutralize toxins,” she explained.
If you want to indulge, Fogger suggested, don’t drink more than one glass of wine per day.
Finally, she said, keep it simple: Eliminate the things in your life that don’t match up with or help you achieve your life goals. And remember to surround yourself with good people.