5 stress relief tips to help prevent the side effects of stress

There are times in everyone's lives when they have to step out of their comfort zones or they're faced with tough situations that lead to feelings of anxiety. Sometimes these feelings can last a while or reoccur more than you'd hoped. It's important to remember that stress can do more than put a damper on your day - everything from your musculoskeletal system to your respiratory health may be at risk if you find yourself feeling stressed by these situations over long periods of time.  

Don't let stress wreak havoc on your health. Educating yourself on the effects of the negative emotion on your well-being is the first step toward healthy aging.

What can stress do to your body? According to the American Heart Association, stress is known to increase people's chances of developing conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are both major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Stress also leads to lifestyle habits like smoking and overeating. This can also contribute to the onset of heart disease and other illnesses like diabetes and lung cancer. 

The American Psychological Association explained that chronic stress can have negative impacts on the musculoskeletal system. When people experience anxiety, their muscles tense up as a form of protection against pain or injury. While this usually has no harmful effects when it happens occasionally, chronic stress causes the body to stay tense for long periods of time, often resulting in migraines and muscle painful around the neck, shoulders and head. 

Stress can also make it challenging to breathe for adults who have respiratory illnesses like asthma or lung disease, noted the APA. Getting the oxygen they need to breathe easily may become difficult. This can lead to rapid breathing, or hyperventilation, which can be serious for people who are affected by conditions like atrial fibrillation. 

Chronic stress can cause conditions like migraines if untreated.Chronic stress can cause conditions like migraines if untreated.

The good news is that while stress can impact people in negative ways, you can reduce the effect it has on your mental and physical state with exercises and healthy lifestyle habits.

5 stress relief tips

  • Practice relaxation techniques - One of the most popular strategies for reducing stress is focusing on your breathing. Sometimes counting to 10 and deeply inhaling and exhaling can do the trick. The Mayo Clinic explained that relaxation techniques are effective not only for managing stress as it occurs, but recovering from situations that caused anxiety and tension. Tai chi and yoga are popular relaxation activities that help people focus on the here and now. See if your assisted living community offers yoga classes or any exercise programs that you enjoy, as all activities that trigger a release of endorphins and help clear your mind will benefit your overall well-being. 
  • Express your feelings - Keeping your worries bottled up inside can make you feel overwhelmed and alone. Talk to people you trust about your feelings. Even if you're not searching for any specific advice, getting something that's been causing you anxiety off your chest can make the issue feel less significant.  
  • Focus only on what you can control - Hearing your feelings spoken aloud will also make it easier to realize if you're constantly stressing out about something that's beyond your control. Accepting that you have no control over certain situations will help you to start shifting your focus from how to control the issue to remaining calm when it does occur. 
  • Try positive self-talk - The AHA suggested that people engage in self-talk when they're feeling stressed. Sometimes even simple phrases like "I can do this," or "Everything is going to work out," can be reassuring and help you see the big picture and gain control of the situation. Always avoid negative self-talk if you catch yourself doing it, as this will only increase stress. 
  • Leave time for what you love - Taking a few minutes out of your day to enjoy the hobbies that give you pleasure can make a world of a difference when you're trying to fight off stress. It's a natural way to make yourself feel positive and happy during overwhelming or emotionally straining times. This can be as simple as reading a book by your favorite author, watching an old movie with friends or taking up an old hobby that you've missed. Doing at least one of these things for just 15 minutes can have a major impact on your stress levels.

Remember that people respond to stress-reducing techniques differently, so it may take some experimenting to find a strategy that works for you. It could be that you benefit most from a combination of multiple techniques. Regardless of what works for you, remember that anything that helps reduce the impact that stress has on your health is worth investing time in.