Less Stress for a Healthier You

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Our brains are in constant communication with our bodies, sending messages and receiving information via electrical and chemical signals. So its not surprising that research has shown a persons mental state can affect his or her physical state. In fact, one study found that 60 percent of visits to primary care offices were for stress-related illnesses. Stress had been shown to play a role in a variety of medical issues, including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, hot flashes, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease and chronic pain.

Most of us could improve our health by taking steps - like those outlined here - to reduce stress.

1. Get Out And Exercise

It is well documented that exercise improves mood, releases endorphins, lowers stress hormones and increases your energy level. Focus on making yourself feel good. For instance, go outside to exercise if weather permits. Appreciating the scenery and the fresh air will help to clear your mind. Choose an activity you enjoy and challenge yourself a little, but not so much that you dread getting started- or overdo it and risk injury.

2. Be Sensible About Sleep

Experts agree: Getting enough shut-eye is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Research shows that not getting enough can leave you drained, moody, forgetful and irritable. It also can impair your judgment and increase your blood pressure. There's a circular relationship between stress and sleep: Stress can make it difficult to fall asleep, and not sleeping enough can make you stressed. To break that cycle, create a calming bedtime routine, take a warm bath, read a relaxing magazine or book, then turn off the lights.

3. Take A Time Out

Set aside some time each day for you and your thoughts. Sit somewhere peaceful and leave your phone elsewhere. Focus on your breathing to help you slow down. Creating this time to pause and let your mind drift will help release stress, quieting the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight response. You'll give your health a boost and gain more day-to-day serenity.

4. Connect With Others

Staying socially connected and giving to others have both been shown to reduce stress. Interacting with people we enjoy gives us a sense of security that is vital to our well-being. Here are some tried-and-true ways to expand your social connections or strengthen the relationships you already have:

  • Have dinner with a friend you haven't seen in a while.
  • Grab lunch with a co-worker you don't usually have the chance to spend time with.
  • Volunteer for a cause you care about.
  • Remember those closest to you- even time to relax with a spouse or partner sometimes needs to be planned.

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