Our bodies come fully equipped with defenses for handling threats. When the body perceives a stressful situation, it goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, releasing hormones that allow us to cope with the situation. Unfortunately, when stressful situations occur in everyday life, our bodies sometimes are unable to return to normal, which causes damage to our systems.
Many people think that stress is simply psychological. However, it can manifest itself physically. At first, you might notice an increase in headaches and colds. Continued stress can lead to heart disease, depression, diabetes and anxiety disorder – to name just a few conditions.
The message is simple: Decrease stress and you will be a healthier person. That is easier said than done, right? Here are some tips for coping with stress:
- Learn relaxation techniques: While our bodies are designed to return to normal function through a natural relaxation response, sometimes this does not happen when we are dealing with chronic stress. In these cases, we can benefit from performing relaxation and meditation exercises. After a while, your body may train itself to be in a perpetual state of stress and anxiety. Techniques like yoga, meditation and breathing exercises can help retrain your body to ease out of its alarm state.
- Exercise: Exercise can decrease “stress hormones” like cortisol and increase endorphins, the “feel-good hormone.” Additionally, it allows you an opportunity to work out your aggression in a healthy way and helps you look and feel better.
- Identify a stressful situation and take steps to make it less stressful: It sounds simple, but sometimes the easiest way to decrease stress is simply to remove ourselves from a situation. If you feel stressed every time you spend time with a certain person in your life, try to take a break from being with him or her. If the evening news depresses you, try turning it off for a week or two.
While there is no cure-all for stress, every little thing we do can make a huge difference for our long-term health.
Louie Coulis, MD, FACC
Dr. Coulis has been practicing cardiology in Sheboygan for more than 20 years. He earned his medical degree at Indiana University and completed his cardiovascular training at the Cleveland Clinic. He maintains board certification in both general cardiology and nuclear cardiology by the American Society of Cardiology and Nuclear Cardiology.
Dr. Coulis has participated as primary investigator in numerous national and international clinical trials. He maintains his special interests in preventative cardiology and cardiac imaging.
He is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.