Many New Year’s resolutions focus on being healthier by quitting smoking or eating healthier. Another important aspect of maintaining our health is improving how we cope with stress. It would be ideal if we could eliminate some of the stress causers in our lives, but this is not always possible especially when the stress is tied to our incomes or all too often these days our lack of income. Excess stress is a significant contributor to short-term and long-term health issues. It can cause headaches, body pain, stomach upset, and increase our susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. In addition, stress may be a contributor to insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer.
So what can we do about stress? I know there are some stressful circumstances we can’t change, but pay attention to where you might be putting unnecessary stress on yourself. Become aware of when you use the word should. If you are “shoulding” yourself about something that is unrealistic, replace it with a more manageable goal such as a concrete step you could complete that day. Or just drop that unnecessary demand on yourself all together. If your shoulds are about another person, instead try to accept that person for the wonderful if imperfect person they are. Since you can’t change another person, don’t stress yourself out by focusing on what they are not.
In addition to this emotional and mental work, add some healthy lifestyle habits to keep your body strong and mind balanced. Look for fun ways to fit exercise into your day. Ideally, get a workout buddy so you can also benefit from having a friend to talk things over with. Remember to take deep breaths, even if it is just a few when you are stopped at a light. Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains. There are also herbs like Ashwagandha and Siberian Ginseng that can help the body deal with the effects of long-term stress. These herbs can help balance the body’s output of stress hormones, as well as improve energy and stamina.
If you want more tips on dealing with stress, check out Managing Stress at healthfinder.gov.