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How would you rate your stress level on a scale of one to ten right now? What could you do today to decrease that number by 2 points on that scale?

It is important to be aware of our state of stress and how it can affect us both mind and body. We all have stress in our lives, both good and bad. Good stress is referred to as eustress, and is any situation that gives us a feeling of joy or euphoria. Bad stress is referred to as distress, and is any situation that causes a perceived threat to one’s mind, body, spirit, or emotions.

We cannot eliminate stress, but we do want to manage it with some positive coping skills and relaxation techniques.

Many people “get by” without addressing their stress, but over time it may lead to some chronic health issues down the track. Stress can have negative effects on our blood pressure, immune system, and increase muscle tension just to name a few. It is estimated that 80% of all visits to our general practice physicians are related to stress.

Working in Cardiac Rehabilitation for 18 years has shown me firsthand the effects that stress can have on our bodies when we ignore it. We cannot control everything that is going on at home and at work, but we can take control of our good health habits. Positive behaviors such as drinking 6-8 glasses of water, getting 7-8 hours of sleep/night, and trying to get some exercise on most days with a goal of 30 minutes will help your body deal with stress.

Eating to assist our energy levels and to assist us in times of stress is crucial. Running through the drive through for fried foods only increases our stress hormones in our bodies and distracts our bodies from serving us best. Choose good nutritional choices such as low fat protein, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates while reducing sweets and alcohol. These choices will increase your energy and focus and help your body manage your stress.

Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, massage, listening to music, journalling, or prayer are a few ways to assist your mind and body dealing with the day to day stressors. Relaxation techniques performed for even 10-15 minutes a couple times a week can make a big difference.