A recent study conducted by Gallup-Healthways found that Utah is the most stressed out state in United States. A significant number of Utahns report high stress levels – 45 percent. Whether busy schedules, the current economic situation or just plain life is the cause of the high stress levels is uncertain.
Now a new study published online September 27, 2011 in the Journal of Aging Research reports that men who experience persistent moderate or high levels of stress have a 50 percent higher mortality rate when compared with their less-stressed counterparts.
Carolyn Aldwin, lead author of the study and a professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University and her team examined the stress levels of 1443 men over an 18-year period. Researches found that participants who reported lower stress levels experienced two or fewer major life events per year, while the high stress group reported up to six per year.
“It seems there is a threshold and perhaps with anything more than two major life events a year and people just max out,” Aldwin said according to materials provided by Oregon State University.
Stress is a normal physical response to forces inside or outside the body that upset your balance in some way. It is a necessary response to danger, which prepares you to defend yourself against perceived or real threats – sometimes called the “fight-or-flight” reaction.
When stress persists over a long period of time, widespread damage can occur within your body. Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, infertility, premature aging and a suppressed immune system. Why do you think so many of your classmates were sick during finals week in college?
This research adds to a wealth of data that suggests stress needs to be managed properly to avoid the negative health effects it is linked to. The following are eight ways you can manage and reduce your stress level:
- Exercise – Just about any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever by releasing feel-good endorphins. Exercise improves your overall health and well-being, promotes better sleep and improves your mood. It may even improve the ability of your brain to cope with stress, anxiety and depression.
- Change your response to situations – Sometimes you may overreact to a situation and cause yourself greater stress. Learn to look at the situation and determine if it is worth getting upset over. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a month or a year from now?” If not, don’t stress over it. View challenges as opportunities for growth.
- Learn to accept the things you can’t control – There is no sense in stressing over situations or events that are out of your control. Focus instead on what you can control and discover better ways to cope with those events or situations. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can control your reaction.
- Prevent self-inflicted stress – Don’t “bite off more than you can chew.” Learn to accept your limits – committing to too much leads to stress. Don’t compare yourself with others, instead seek to better yourself and compare yourself against yourself. Manage your time better and make time everyday to do something you enjoy, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. Set realistic goals and priorities. If you set goals you can’t achieve you are adding a great deal of stress to your life. Avoid perfectionism. As an alternative focus on your good qualities.
- Don’t bottle up your emotions – Suppression of your emotions builds up pressure that may eventually explode. Share your feelings and be grateful and forgiving. These actions can be liberating. Holding a grudge or harboring unkind feelings only hurts you.
- Relax – Learn to recognize when you need a break and find activities that promote relaxation. Practice deep breathing exercises. This brings more oxygenated blood to all the cells in your body and naturally promotes a feeling of calm. Read a book, watch a movie, soak in a hot bath, take a walk or talk to a friend.
- Take anti-stress bioactive nutrients – Your daily high-potency multivitamin and mineral helps combat stress by thwarting stress caused by nutrient depletion. Other supportive nutrients include panax ginseng, kava kava, lemon balm, and L-theanine.
- Use essential oils – Essential oils have a direct influence on the emotional center of the brain through the sense of smell. They can profoundly impact the way you feel. Frequently used oils include lavender, cedarwood, citrus oils, Roman chamomile and copaiba.