Monthly Education: Stress

Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health longterm. In one study, researchers examined the association between “positive affect” — feelings like happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm — and the development of coronary heart disease over a decade.  They found that for every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.

While the study doesn’t prove that increasing positive affect decreases cardiovascular risks, the researchers recommend boosting your positive affect by making a little time for enjoyable activities every day. Other strategies for reducing stress include:

Identify what’s causing stress. Monitor your state of mind throughout the day. If you feel stressed, write down the cause, your thoughts and your mood. Once you know what’s bothering you, develop a plan for addressing it.

• Build strong relationships. Relationships can be a source of stress. Research has found that negative, hostile reactions with your spouse cause immediate changes in stress-sensitive hormones, for example.

Walk away when you’re angry. Before you react, take time to regroup by counting to 10. Then reconsider. Walking or other physical activities can also help you work off steam. Plus, exercise increases the production of endorphins, your body’s natural mood-booster. Commit to a daily walk or other form of exercise — a small step that can make a big difference in reducing stress levels.

• Rest your mind. According to APA’s 2012 Stress in America™ survey, stress keeps more than 40 percent of adults lying awake at night. To help ensure you get the recommended seven or eight hours of shut-eye, cut back on caffeine, remove distractions such as television or computers from your bedroom, and go to bed at the same time each night. Research shows that activities like yoga and relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress, but also boost immune functioning.

• Get help. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consult with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional who can help you learn how to manage stress effectively.

Stress Handout
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