Why De-Stressing Your Stress Response is So Important

Why De-Stressing Your Stress Response is So Important

The APA says American’s anxiety levels are increasing every year.

Do you find yourself waking up at night worrying about finances, relationships, your family’s safety and health or politics? Are you often upset at work, as you’re driving or while in conflict with relatives and co-workers?

You’re not alone. A 2018 poll from the America Psychological Association (APA) reveals that Americans’ anxiety levels are increasing every year—with Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) being the most worried group, especially about money, and Baby Boomers (born 1948 to 1964) experiencing a seven point jump in their anxiety level this year. Overall, when asked to compare their current anxiety to that of the previous year, 57 percent of women 18 to 49 said they were more anxious, as were 38 percent of men the same age. So…

Breathe. Slowly. Exhale. Slowly. We’re going to talk about your stress responses and we don’t want the discussion to irk you. It’s important to admit to the tension. To identify when it derails you. And to find ways to ease it. Breathe.

Unrelieved stress increases unhappiness and ages your arteries, destroys connections in your brain and damages your immune system. And job-related stress costs U.S. industries $300 billion annually according to The American Stress Institute! Here’s how to de-stress:

Change your physical and emotional responses, so you don’t get caught up in a feed-back loop of ever-increasing discomfort. This calls for becoming aware of how you respond physically to stress—“My breathing gets shorter.” “I clench my teeth.” “I raise my voice.” –and then working to change that. For example, when exhaling, become aware of your anxious thoughts and let them float away. Focus on relaxing your jaw muscles and you’ll stop clenching your teeth. That in turn will defuse your internal hormonal stress response—and cool your level of distress.

What works: Mindful meditation—just 10 minutes a day in the morning or at night can reset your internal tension regulation so that potentially upsetting thoughts or events roll off your back. We both do it—in different ways and we use these techniques. We also advocate cognitive behavioral therapy to learn new ways of responding to stressors and medical care to determine if temporary use of anti-anxiety medication is needed.

Take action and remember you can influence your environment. That can come from volunteering in a community project that helps others with financial challenges, spending time at your child’s school, working in a community garden or just reaching out to a neighbor who you know needs help with handling daily tasks.

Also: In the APA poll, 56 percent of folks felt somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of politics on daily life. And 87 percent strongly or somewhat agree than gun violence was a public health threat. You can write letters, join protests, run for office.  “Do, don’t stew,” can become your motto.

Make a plan: Write down three organizations or activities you would like to participate in. Give them a call or research online to find out what volunteer opportunities they offer. Visit their offices or join in an activity to see if that’s for you. Write out action steps.

Use physical activity to increase your body’s resilience, so that you feel more capable of handling whatever comes your way. When your body functions from strength, the feeling of confidence it gives you is a huge benefit. As a bonus, aerobic and strength-building exercises dispel stress hormones and muscle tension, promote restful sleep and protect you from stress-related health problems such as diabetes and weight-related joint damage.

Get stronger: Dr. Oz offers a five-step plan from fitness trainer Todd Durkin, called the Beginner’s Guide to Getting Strong:

  1. Choose the right weights.
  2. Know how many reps to do.
  3. If it hurts, don’t do it/if you’re tired fight through it.
  4. Work your muscles in the right order.
  5. Determine how often you should train.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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