by Mark Underwood
Stress affects people in many different ways. It often creeps up when we feel overwhelmed or feel pressured to accomplish something in a short amount of time.
Stress triggers an alarm in the brain, telling our bodies that something is wrong. The ‘fight or flight’ response calls in the nervous system to respond and hormones to be released, jolting the body into action. Muscles become tense, breathing increases, and pulse quickens.
Heightening the senses during a crisis is essential to survival. This is a natural and important biological response. The body is designed for short bursts of activity in response to stress or danger, but the ongoing nature of daily stress often means that the system is left ‘on’ to respond.
Recognize that you can learn how to lead a less stressful life. Recognize too, that when you alleviate the stress, it can help you live a longer, healthier life.
Stress reactions vary from person to person, and can involve mental, physical or behavioral changes. Headaches and fatigue are common signals that the body is over-worked.
While you may have a mild headache due to stress, another person’s headache may be so uncomfortable they have difficulty concentrating. A stress-related headache may also mean you have tight muscles or have difficulty sleeping.
Some people experience a combination of stress signals making it difficult to work and turn off stressful thoughts in their brain while they sleep.
Change the choices you make
Did you realize the choices you make can lead to more or less stress? Try to pinpoint what you’re anxious about. Are you feeling stressed because you don’t have time to finish a project before its deadline? Are you worried that a friend may have misinterpreted something you said? Or maybe everything you think about seems to have a worry attached?
Now is the time to use your brain power to tackle these types of stressors. Try adjusting your thinking by asking yourself if your worries are small, medium or big problems. How upset do you want to get over it and for how long? Look at the possibilities around you, not the restrictions.
Nutrition and exercise also play a big part in reducing stress. Most people are exposed to sweets, particularly when they visit friends. Eating too many sweets adds to feeling stressed and run down. Instead, try eating simple foods. Reprogram your thinking so that you enjoy the people around you instead of the food.
Learn to say ’no’ when something becomes too difficult to fit in your schedule or accomplish during a short period of time. Listen to your inner voice. If something feels stressful and it keeps replaying as stress in your head, give yourself permission to say no. If you do this more often, you’ll enjoy a less stressful life.
Plan To Be Less-Stressed—Tips for Success
- Work on having a positive attitude.
- Try not to worry about things out of your control.
- When feeling overwhelmed by a task, ask yourself—is this something you enjoy or is it just something you think you’re supposed to do?
- Problem solve with people around you. Ask them to help you alleviate stress.
- Eat nutritional food. Decrease the amount of fat and sugar you eat. The easiest way to make sure you don’t overeat is to have a solid plan for dealing with stress before you go to family gatherings or parties. Nutritional stress can drain your energy.
- Maintain a regular exercise program. Exercise helps on many levels. It releases the build-up of glucose in the muscles and relaxes them, and increases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that increase good overall sleep.
- Rest. Try to get eight hours of sleep a night. A good night’s sleep rejuvenates the mind as well as the body.
- Play board games or card games with friends. You’ll enjoy the benefits of improved brain health as well as social interaction, which is all important to healthy aging.
Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Mark has been taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal Morning Radio, CBS and CNN Radio among others. Mark is also a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and offers practical tips to help keep health brain function in aging. More articles and tips for healthy aging can be found at www.TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com.
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