Mind+Body Connection: Stress And Your Health

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Stress affects everyone differently, but more and more research reveals that it impacts us not just mentally but physically. I’m here with licensed clinical professional counselor and stress expert Joyce Marter to help us manage stress. So, Joyce, what are some ways that stress affects our physical health?

When we’re holding stress and tension, it can lead to headaches, migraines, gastrointestinal problems, muscle tension (like jaw tension that many people have), and even backaches. Stress can profoundly affect us physically. Additionally, sometimes people make poor choices in terms of their coping skills. They might reach for a bag of chips, overeat, or abuse substances like smoking or having a martini. These choices are not good and can lead to health problems like heart disease by increasing blood pressure and high cholesterol.

On the other hand, if you have a health issue, such as a chronic illness, that can also cause stress.

Absolutely. Dealing with a chronic health issue is enormously stressful on multiple levels. It affects people financially, emotionally (in terms of dealing with fear or loss), and it affects their relationships and daily logistics.

So, what are some ways we can break the cycle of stress for better health?

I have three important tips. The first is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is anything that helps you become rooted and grounded in the present moment. Often, people spend their mental energy worrying about the past or the future, but peace can be found in the present moment. Mindfulness strategies include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga—anything that makes you aware of the here and now and firmly roots you in the present.

The second thing I recommend is setting healthy limits or boundaries. This means setting limits at work, learning how to say no in our relationships, and even setting limits with technology by turning off your cell phone.

So true. It’s hard for us to do, but we need to create work/life balance. Otherwise, we lose that time for ourselves.

Exactly. My third tip is about self-care. Self-care is really important. Instead of turning to harmful behaviors like retail therapy, carve out time and space for healthy self-care practices. Take a bubble bath, go for a long walk, or put on your favorite music. These things are really important. Often, we become busy and leave those things for last, and then they never happen. I recommend scheduling at least 20 minutes a day for self-care, more if you can build up to it, and making it a part of your lifestyle.

Good advice for good health. Thank you so much, Joyce. Until next time, I’m Jackie Bender for Context Media Health.

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