This content is sponsored by Adventist HealthCare.
Successfully managing your stress levels is often easier said than done, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other world events during the past year.
Stress puts your body on high alert and will often go away once the threat passes. However, too many ongoing stressors may put you in a constant state of high alert. This can lead to burnout, bad moods, irritability, the inability to focus and depression. There can also be an impact on your physical health.
Ogechi Anyaoku, MD, an internal medicine physician with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group cautions that constant high stress negatively impacts your health, leading to worsening chronic health conditions and even creating new ones. She states, “you could begin to grind your teeth at night leading to headaches, neck and back pain. High stress can also affect your digestive system causing acid reflux and stomach upset. Other physical effects of stress can be sleep disruption, high blood pressure and hair loss. You could also experience frequent colds and infections due to a weakened immune system from stress.”
To protect your physical and mental health, she advises finding ways to manage and control your stress. “It is so important to find ways to manage your stress that work for you so that you can keep it up and create lasting change for your health.”
If you’ve been struggling with stress like many others, here are some tips to successfully manage it and get back to a healthier, happier you.
Start a Stress Journal
“Identifying the source of your stress is the first step in successfully managing it. Keeping a daily journal is a great way to identify regular stressors in your life, allowing you to see common patterns and themes,” says Dr. Anyaoku. Start by answering the following questions:
- What caused you to feel stressed?
- How did you feel physically? Emotionally?
- How did you react in response to the stress?
- What did you do to make yourself feel better?
After determining your stressors, you can then choose how to react. This includes avoiding what causes you stress, altering the stressful situation or coming to terms with and accepting stressors that you can’t change.
Find a Path to Better Sleep
We all know that the amount of stress you’re experiencing can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, the amount of sleep you receive each night is directly tied to your mental health. This cycle causes your brain and body to get off balance and only gets worse over time.
“Adults should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This task can be hard for some to attain, so you may have to take steps to help your body wind down and relax before bed. Try dimming the lights, turning off electronics 30 minutes before bed or reading,” suggests Dr. Anyaoku.
Sleeping schedules have also been effective for most, allowing their bodies to get into a natural rhythm over time. This includes going to bed at the same time every night, waking up around the same time in the mornings and not sleeping in for more than two hours on your days off.
Recognize Your Time
It’s hard to stay calm and focused when you’re stretched too thin at work and with daily life tasks. Our time is valuable and finding ways to manage your time effectively can lead to less stress and improved efficiency, leaving you more time to enjoy what you love in life.
Simple steps that can help you better manage the time in your day include:
- Don’t overcommit yourself – Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed with commitments. Avoid trying to fit too much into one day and be sure to leave time for yourself each day.
- Prioritize tasks – Make a daily to-do list and prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency.
- Break projects into small steps – If you’ve been putting off a task because it seems daunting, try breaking it up into smaller, more attainable steps and focus on one step at a time.
- Ask for help – It’s impossible to do everything yourself, whether at home or work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your teammates, family or friends.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
When you’re overly stressed, it’s easy to reach for the traditional “comfort foods” to make yourself feel better. Eating a healthy diet can help counter the effects of stress on your body, including helping to reduce weight gain and inflammation.
“It’s okay to allow yourself to eat the things you love, especially when you may not be feeling your best, but be mindful of the things you’re putting in your body too. Ensure that you are getting the healthy foods your body needs to work its best. A diet that’s high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and lean protein will keep your body healthy, support your immune system and help you feel better.”
Make sure that you’re incorporating the following into your diet:
- Whole grains
- Omega-3 rich foods such as salmon, nuts and plant oils
- Plenty of colorful vegetables, legumes and beans
- Lean protein such as poultry, turkey and fish
- Plenty of water
In addition, make sure you’re making healthy choices in other aspects of your life, including:
- Reducing your caffeine and sugar intake throughout the day
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Limiting salt intake
While not commonly thought of as a stress reducer, spirituality has many benefits for overall mental health and managing stress. Spirituality isn’t always prayer or religious observance, it can be found in other forms such as art, music, experiences or relationships you have with other people.
“Finding your spirituality can help you discover what’s most important to you in life and find your purpose, leading you to have a sense of inner peace,” says Dr. Anyaoku. “When you realize what’s most important to you, you tend to focus less on the unimportant aspects, leading you to feel less stress in your life.”
Discovering your spirituality may require some self-reflection. You may want to ask yourself: what you value most in your life, what gives you hope, what brings you joy and what are your important relationships?
Learning what spirituality means to you can help you cope with stressors large and small, helping you find your purpose in life.
“Stressors are a part of daily life,” says Dr. Anyaoku, “The good news is that in many cases, it’s manageable. Applying these techniques may help you find balance in your life.” Even finding one way to manage your stress can make a big difference in your health. You will be surprised at how quickly you’ll start to feel better once you determine the source of stress and take steps to fix it.
To get started on your path to better health, visit AdventistMedicalGroup.org/Healthy.