How stress can whittle away at your mental health
It is common to hear people today go on and on about the stress in their lives, whether they are students, employees, or parents. Stress is a part of daily life and it can even be positive in many ways. However, chronic stress can take a toll on you, harming your physical and mental health over time.
The toll stress takes on mind and body
According the American Institute of Stress, around 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for ailments that are stress related. This is no surprise considering how much damage chronic stress can do to a person both physically and mentally. There are multiple conditions that can appear or worsen as a result of constant stress which include:
- Asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure
- Depression and anxiety
- Immune system compromise and a reduced resistance to viruses and bacterial infections
- Sexual problems
- Diabetes, obesity, itching, hives, gastrointestinal problems
These are just some of the different consequences that can be a result of chronic stress. Thankfully, there is a good way to battle stress that too many people view as a luxury: relaxation.
How relaxation can help
Sadly, relaxation is something that is diminishing in American society and yet it is one of the most important things people can do to benefit their mental and physical health. For every negative effect that stress has on a person, relaxation has a counteracting positive effect. While stress raises heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rates, relaxation lowers the heart rate and blood pressure and slows breathing while also reducing muscle tension and pain. Where stress can make people feel scattered, relaxation can improve concentration. It can also reduce anger and frustration and improve a person’s overall mood. Relaxing can also reduce insomnia and fatigue and as a result improve energy levels and self-confidence. Finally, relaxation continues to help an individual combat stress by improving stress response.
Despite knowing how important it is to relax in response to stress, it can sometimes be hard to know where to start or what to do. Bubble baths and massages can help, that much is true, but there are other techniques that can also provide benefits including, but not limited to the following:
- Abdominal breathing exercises: Focused breathing exercises can create positive change by lowering blood pressure, lowering the heart rate, improving circulation and stamina, preventing infection and more.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Through focusing on slowly tensing and relaxing each muscle group, the technique helps one focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation.
- Using music to relax: Listening to music can slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease stress. And for those who love singing in the car and shower: singing and shouting along with music can be a good form of stress release as well.
- Yoga: The practice of yoga encourages mental and physical unity and helps to stretch the body and focus the mind. The process of yoga is meant to always be relaxing in all its different forms.
- Meditation: Meditation encourages a mind-body connection and produces a state of relaxation and tranquility, which can enhance physical and emotional well-being.
- Autogenic relaxation: This relaxation technique uses the repetition of words and awareness along with visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress.
- Crafting: Art, knitting, crocheting and other crafts can help encourage relaxation and de-stress the mind and body. The benefits come from the calming repetition that accompanies most crafts. Additionally, the process of creating something gives someone a sense of accomplishment and the use of creativity can improve his or her mood.
These are just some of the many exercises and activities that can encourage relaxation. The important thing to remember is that it pays to take the time to relax and the benefits are huge. Making time everyday to do just a few of these calming activities can improve mental and emotional health and prevent the use of alternative, possibly unhealthy coping methods such as drug use and lowers the risk of developing a mental health disorder.
If you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse or a mental health disorder due to stress, please seek help. To learn more about treatment for substance abuse or treatment for mental health disorders, please visit www.sovhealth.com or call 866-524-5504 for more information.
Written by Brianna Gibbons, Sovereign Health Group writer