Are you stressed? You’re not alone. Millions of people across the United States are stressed every day. However, the American Psychological Association recently reported some good news. Overall, stress in the US is at a seven-year low. A 2014 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health nationwide poll reported that 49% of the 2,500 adults polled experienced a major stressful event within the past year. Health-related problems and money worries continue to be the top stressors for a majority of Americans.
While stress is a natural human response to feeling under pressure that can be good as well as bad, too much bad stress can be harmful to the body physically and mentally. How you view and deal with a stressful event is the largest factor that impacts your overall health. A persistent negative response to stress can have a negative effect on your health and happiness. A study conducted by the University of Western Ontario indicated that people who believe that their stress is affecting their health are twice as likely to have a heart attack ten years later. Additionally, excessive stress can lead to back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression, and anxiety among many other possible physical and mental illnesses.
Every human experiences stress in their life. It could range from anything like taking a math test to major health issues or job loss. As truckers you face additional stressors, like lack of sleep, tight deadlines, and dealing with traffic jams. While it is impossible to avoid stress, you can take simple steps to reduce and manage your stress to keep it at a healthy level.
Also Read: Avoiding Stress When Money is Tight
5 Simple Steps to Manage Your Stress
- Exercise Daily
Exercise is one of the best stress relievers and can help you maintain overall good health. It can help pump up your endorphins which are your “feel good” neurotransmitters that can give you that infamous “runner’s high.” Exercise can also be like “meditation in motion” because you often concentrate on your body’s movement and start to forget your bad day. Regular exercise can also increase your self-confidence and help you relax. Exercise can be anything you like it to be as long as you’re moving. It could be walking, biking, tennis, or swimming for example.
- Take a Deep Breathe
Taking a series of deep breathes can help you relax. It helps you activate the body’s natural relaxation response, which is a physical state of deep rest that decreases your heart rate and muscle tension to help you deal with stress. One of the most common deep breathing techniques is called the quieting response which utilizes visualization and deep breathing to stop an acute stress response. The best part is that it only takes 6 seconds! First, “smile inwards” with your eyes and mouth to release the tension in your shoulders. Then imagine holes in the bottom of your feet. Take a deep breath in while visualizing hot air flowing up through these holes into your lungs. Relax your body’s muscles as the hot air moves up your body. When you exhale the breath out, visualize all the hot air flowing out the same holes in your feet.
- Keep a Stress Journal
One of the first things you should do to manage your stress is to identify the sources of your stress. It’s easy to identify sources of stress related to a major life event like death of a loved one or moving to a new home, but it can be hard to identify the sources of everyday stressors. One easy way to help you identify your stressors is by starting a stress journal. Keep a daily log of items that stress you out. Jot down what caused your stress, how it made you feel physically and emotionally, and how you acted in response. Over time you may start to see a pattern.
- Reduce caffeine consumption
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and is addictive. Caffeine primarily affects your body’s hormones and has a half-life of 4-6 hours in your body. It can increase your body’s level of cortisol, which is considered to be your “stress hormone.” Prolonged levels of cortisol can lead to negative health effects. If you are constantly ingesting high levels of caffeine you may feel like your mood and energy is on a rollercoaster. One minute you’re on a high and the next you’re down in a low. When you hit the low point you’ll start to crave more caffeine to get back to that high spot, which may lead to sleep loss and health consequences that will lead you to be even more stressed.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is essential to life. It allows our body to heal and repair itself for the next day. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect memory, judgment, and mood. Stress often interferes with sleep, but it also helps you manage your stress. Healthcare professionals recommend between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, but the average American adult only sleeps 6.7 hours a night. Getting a good night’s rest can significantly help your stress levels by helping you relax and reset your negative thoughts. Using the above tips like daily exercise and drinking less coffee can help you sleep better at night.
Stress is a part of every human’s daily life. While not all stress is bad, it can certainly put you in a sour mood and affect your physical and mental health. One of the first things you should do when feeling stressed is try to identify the source and then use the above tips to help you overcome it. Not every tip might work for you, but find something that does and you’ll be breathing easier.
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