It’s a brand new year. So many of us look to the New Year as way to hit the refresh button and make major changes. These changes can include exercising more, finding a new job, paying off debt, or making efforts to reduce your screen time. All of these changes are excellent.The thing to remember though with making and expecting big change from yourself (and your family) is the stress that comes with it. There is such a thing as good stress. This is the stress that helps you feel motivated and ready for action. But for most of us, this good stress is overshadowed and overpowered by negative stress.
Negative stress is the kind of stress that can impair our immune system. The kind of stress that can cause us to return to old habits. The kind of stress that can make us feel run-down and less than our best.
While short-term stress can make you more susceptible to illness, it’s the long-term stress that we’re most concerned about. Let’s just take a closer look at the year-ahead:
- Pressure from 2017 resolutions.
- Tax season ahead.
- Bills and payments from the holiday season.
- Unknowns associated with the change in government.
- Just generally worrying about your family and their health.
So, yes, this is a lot to be thinking about and worrying about. This is where the stress comes from. Mix-in work pressures, unexpected bills, tuition increases, and the other aspects of life that we can’t control and you end up with a big ball of stress that feels like it’s smothering you.
This stress has now moved from short-term stress to long-term stress.
Impacts of Long-Term Stress
Taking a quick scan of your body, here is how stress manifests itself in your body and wears you down:
- You have a constant headache.
- You’re having trouble getting motivated and focusing on your goals.
- You can’t sleep. Your mind is racing and you can’t quiet your brain.
- Your heart rate is elevated and feels like it is racing.
- Your blood pressure values have gone from normal to high.
- You have an upset stomach and feel unwell.
- You are constantly fighting a cold, flu, sore throat, and minor cuts/bruises are slow to heal.
Now, this is just a quick look at your body and how long-term stress manifests itself. Taken individually, these might not seem like major issues. But when we look at these stress impacts together, alarm bells for bigger issues such as heart attack, diabetes, stroke, depression, and addiction risk are going off.
The question we hope you’re asking right now is this: what can I do to alleviate this long-term and chronic stress? How can I make sure that this stress does not take over my life?
How to Manage Long-Term Stress
The simplest but impossible answer is telling you to not be stressed… but we know this is more than anyone can expect of themselves. As we mentioned earlier, short-term stress is not necessarily a bad thing. This short-term stress actually helps trigger your immune system, sending the killer cells you need to fight off infection and sickness.
But, let’s face reality and look at how we can all manage long-term stress and alleviate it:
- Fresh air and exercise: get out for 15 minutes of sunlight and fresh air. Even better if you can take a walk in the woods. Recent studies have shown that nature has healing and calming impacts on your mental wellness and health.
- Take a breathe: give yourself time and space to breathe deeply. Just five minutes a day of sitting and breathing can help you feel more calm. There is a lot of buzz these days about the healthful impacts of meditation and how it can help alleviate stress.
- Good food: take a look at what you’re eating and try to get in your fruits and vegetables. We don’t expect you to give up your favorite treats but we do want you to squeeze in an extra apple or some carrots. Along with these healthful foods, learn about natural supplements that can help support your immune system. These natural supplements, such as AHCC can help keep you protected from the negative impacts of long-term stress. This combination of healthful food and natural supplements is particularly important if you have an underlying health condition that could be worsened by heightened stress levels.
- Give yourself some kudos: take a step back and look at all you’ve accomplished. Too often we only focus on the things we haven’t done and have failed to achieve. We neglect to acknowledge all our tremendous accomplishments. Never take yourself and what you’ve achieved for granted.
- Eliminate stressors: okay, tax season - it comes every year, no point in worrying about it - you got through it last year, you’ll get through it this year. Yes, the years ahead are unpredictable with a new government, but this is really out of your control - all you can do is focus on living your best life. Yes, you’ve got some bills from the holidays - we all do, they don’t have to be paid immediately. As for your 2017 resolutions - are they really worth the stress that they’re causing you? Look long and hard at these resolutions and think about what is most important to you.
A Healthful 2017
We want you to be healthy and have an excellent year. Don’t put pressure on yourself (or your family) to be better, different, or improved. Just be yourself. If there are changes that you want to make, do so slowly and don’t expect overnight changes.
Take stock of your body and how you’re feeling. Give yourself a self-scan and think about how you’re sleeping, you’re feeling, what you’re eating, and how your health has been. If there are any red flags, don’t ignore them. Get back to the basics of leading a quality life and make an effort to eliminate stressors.
We know it’s not easy. Particularly in our on-the-go society. But maybe this is the year when you take a step back and focus on your true health and wellness. Imagine how good you’ll feel.