When we think of building the pathways to better physical health, often we think of using the most well-known physical building blocks available. Diet and exercise are the key, as we hear time and time again. However, the mind and body and inextricably linked. Stress has been shown to have a range of negative health impacts, ranging from physical symptoms like pain to decreasing the benefits you see from an otherwise healthy lifestyle. It’s time to take a look at stress, the role it might play in your health kick, and what you can do to fight back against it.
How it impacts you
First, we should have some understanding of the many ways stress can impact your healthy lifestyle. Stress has several symptoms of its own that are independently undesirable. For instance, the release of the stress hormone cortisol causes the muscles to tense up more regularly, which has been shown to cause inflammation and pain of the joints and lower back. Huffington Post takes a closer look at how it can interfere with your exercises, as well. Stress has been shown to make it harder to lose weight by making fat harder to burn, for instance. It can cause us to lose sight of our priorities, making us less likely to go to the gym when we planned to. The physical pain and tension caused by stress can slow down our recovery and make it harder for us to sustain long-term exercise plans. It messes with us in many ways, so we should take it seriously.
Sleep it off
Sleep and stress have an antagonistic relationship. If we’re stressed, we can’t sleep. If we can’t sleep, we get stressed. If we deal with chronic stress, then any sleep we might find tends to be less restful. What’s more, people who aren’t able to manage their time well have problems with both stress and sleep. They’re stressed by how much they have to do, and they lose sleep because they don’t have time for it. Sleep management tips like pre-bedtime meditation, a routine that helps you get ready for bed and cut out distractions and breathing exercises can help you sleep better. However, stress and sleep must be tackled at the same time, as one can undermine your attempts to fix the other.
Finding your center
Meditation has already been mentioned as a way to help you settle down for the night and find the sleep you and your body need. However, it is being used far more broadly as one of the best tools for fighting stress widely known at the moment. Meditation teaches not just to relax with breathing exercises, but how to narrow your focus that all other aspects of life drift away from your consciousness. Focusing on your breathing intensely allows you to get some distance from concerns and stressful thoughts in your head, finding your emotional center.
Food for thought
When we think of a diet, we often think of how it helps us physically, but it can help us mentally, as well. There are foods like salmon and other things high in omega-3 acids that can be considered “brain food”, showing some improvement to cognitive thinking and the like. But sites like Holistic Health HQ propose that there’s also a spiritual and emotional side to the food we eat. A holistic nutritionist practices in things like herbology and the focus on nutrition that could help us make better food choices for our emotional health, so it might be worth consulting one.
Reach out and connect
Socializing has long been considered another important aspect of dealing with stress. When we’re with others, we’re less likely to focus on our problems. If we’re having a good time, our brains release endorphins and other happy hormones and chemicals that can balance out the effects of cortisol. However, people who are naturally lonely and don’t have many social connections can have trouble utilizing the power of connection to others. In such circumstances, volunteering can help a lot more than the cause you’re spending time with. Take a look at Money Crashers and the range of volunteering opportunities worth inspecting more closely. You can do good for the community and world around you while also working closely with others who share those motivations, creating a more fulfilling social environment for yourself.
Stress is by far one of the most common health problems we face today. Besides messing up your workout, it’s a key contributor to fatal issues like heart disease, so taking the time to address it is worth the effort no matter what your motivation is.