By: Dr. Andrew I. J. Allshouse, N.D. – Revibe Men’s Health – Seattle
Stress is both a part of life and a natural response that our bodies enact in certain situations. It can appear in any moment or situation; driving, family, work, relationships, you name it, life can be stressful. While seemingly unavoidable, it is important to understand how stress can affect your overall health, and how you can best manage it so that it does not negatively impact your mental or physical health.
Combating stress is not as easy as it is said, but the rewards are likely some of the most fruitful. Stress is often ignored and thought of as a necessary evil, even though it is so commonly connected to disease. The following practices will help you observe and manage stress in a sustainable way, hopefully helping to avoid the serious health implications that come from untreated stress such as diabetes, viral infections, heart disease and mental disease.
- Each body is unique and responds to stress differently. It’s important to recognize your body’s response to stress so that you can tailor your approach to managing it. Some signs that stress may be impacting your health include difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed and having low energy.
- Easy to start but seemingly impossible to master, meditation is a practice that takes dedication and discipline to become effective as a stress manager. Many people’s minds wander and have drifting thoughts that breaks concentration, so try a guided meditation or finding a sound to focus on. The more time you put into meditation, the more you will find it can help manage stress.
Maintain Proper Sleep Hygiene
- Sleep hygiene is the concept of taking extra care to create an environment and a ritual for sleeping to communicate with your brain that it is time to go to sleep. A good night’s rest is essential for your body to reset on a cellular level. Some tips to create a good sleeping environment are reducing light exposure, ensuring warm temperatures, avoiding food 3-4 hours before bedtime and caffeine 12 hours before bedtime.
Create Time to Relax
- Stressful situations call for intended periods of relaxation. Try to spend as much time in the relaxed state as you were in a stressed state. That means when you take a break, you do not fill the time with more stressful activities.
- Remember that you are not alone. Talking about your stress can be a great way to release it, instead of letting it fester internally. Make sure to keep in touch with the people in your life that can provide emotional support. This can be a friend, family member or community/religious organizations.
Mental health is not something that can be convinced to improve, it requires a healthy environment, appropriate maintenance and upkeep. If you are struggling to manage stress on your own, there are many professionals that can help with and get you on the right path towards a happier and healthier life.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline network is free, confidential and available 24/7 across the United States. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.
*This blog marks the second of three in a series of articles related to mental health.