When you experience stress that lasts for weeks or months at a time, you can suffer more than just unpleasant feelings of worry and anxiety.
Prolonged periods of stress can also affect your emotional and physical well-being. Some of the side effects or symptoms of unmanaged stress are headaches, digestive problems, sleep issues, irritability, decreased productivity, problems with memory or with concentration, weight gain or loss, and increased blood pressure or heart rate. In some cases, these affects can have long-term implications for your health.
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Since stress is an inevitable part of life for everyone, it’s important that you learn how to manage it so that it doesn’t take control of your life and wreak havoc on your health. Unfortunately, women who are dealing with stress tend to believe that they can just “power through”, or that they should put off self-care in order to keep up with the multiple responsibilities of home, work, and family.
If this sounds familiar, it may help you to re-prioritize your perspective by thinking about it this way: You are always going to be in a better position to care for your family, manage your household, and keep up with work and other responsibilities when you put your own good health first. The next time you find yourself dealing with a little more than you can easily handle, try these tips for better stress management:
Get some exercise.
Not only does exercise produce stress-relieving hormones, it creates a chunk of time when you can be alone with your thoughts – or not think about much at all. If you’re feeling stressed out, avoid the temptation to ditch your exercise routine in order to create more time to deal with your problems. If you’re not currently exercising, get out a few times a week and take a brisk 20 minute walk. You just might find that you like the benefits so much that you’re inspired to expand into a regular routine of physical activity. Find out more about starting an exercise routine.
Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
“Stress eating”, in the form of over-indulgence or trips to the vending machine or drive-through, may seem like a great idea when you’re feeling anxious. But the fact is that you’ll feel better in the long run if you reach for an apple instead of a bag of chips when you have the urge to munch.
Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks can also be tempting distractions when you’re feeling stressed out. However, water is a better choice. Your body will be better equipped to fight off stress’s negative affects when it’s properly nourished and hydrated.
Write it down.
A common by-product of stress is the feeling of “overwhelm” – too much to manage at once. Making a list of everything that you have going on or that is worrying you, then prioritizing your list based on need and what you can realistically do about each item, can help you achieve a better sense of control.
Take a break.
Unless you are dealing with an immediate life-or-death situation, the chances are that 20 minute breaks here and there aren’t going to impact your problems one way or another. Activities like kicking back with a magazine, watching a favorite TV show, or stopping off for a cup of coffee with a friend can help you take your mind off your problems for a little while, which means you’ll be able to tackle them with a fresh perspective whenever you’re ready.
Nothing gives you a sense of control like preparation and organization. If you find that your stress is being aggravated even further because of piled-up paperwork, a messy kitchen, or a backlog of email, set aside some time to deal with the organization issue or ask for help.
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Talk to a friend.
Sometimes our problems become bigger than they need to be when they are living inside our head. When you’re feeling stressed, talking things over with a friend can help you find solutions and re-frame problems for better management.
As always, seek the advice of your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise routine, or if you believe you need help managing your level of stress.