Stress is a part of life. From being stuck in traffic to falling behind on paying bills, too much stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. If you have a chronic illness, even small tasks, such as making dinner or picking up the children from school, can become overwhelming. Research on how stress causes medical illness is still in its early phases. We do know though that stress can cause physical symptoms, and may increase the rate of progression of a disease. Here are some ways to reduce your stress.
Adjust your attitude. According to researchers, you can better cope with stress by focusing on three ideas: challenge, control and commitment.
- Try to interpret stressful situations as challenges, not as threats.
- Determine what you can control; sometimes the only thing you will be able to control in a stressful situation is the way you respond, but that’s a start.
- Make a commitment to be good to yourself by eating healthfully, thinking positively and maintaining relationships with people you care about.
Learn to problem solve. The key, say experts, is to think through difficult situations systematically.
- Break problems into smaller pieces to make them less overwhelming
- Focus on problems that really need your attention and leave the rest
- Know your limits
- Learn to be flexible
- Be realistic about your choices
Communicate. Keeping your troubles inside only adds to stress. Find someone safe to talk to about your worries; it will reduce stress and help you deal with practical problems. If you have a chronic medical condition, participate in a support group.
Exercise. Regular exercise reduces stress. It helps protect the cardiovascular and immune systems from the consequences of stressful events. Whether it’s swimming, walking or another form of exercise, find time to do the activity on a regular basis.
Take control of your diet and your sleep. It’s hard to do, but if you eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet and get a good night’s sleep, you’ll have more energy to cope with stress. And if you’re tired and cranky, you’ll be more susceptible to stress-related ailments.
Do something for others. Volunteering for a worthy cause can be a great experience. It also can help you forget about your own problems and increase your self-esteem.