Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes,” 1789. Yet, more than 200 years later, here we are with more stress than ever. According to 2022 statistics from the American Psychological Association, around 76% of adult Americans say that they have experienced stress in the prior month, which leads us to believe that most of us are under the certainty of stress. It may be time to add stress to the certainties of life. Whether that stress is due to financial concerns, familial obligations, or work/life balance, the truth is America is a stressed-out nation. And this does nothing to boost our health as a whole. We need to learn to control stress to minimize it’s adverse effects.

So, how can you do more to protect your health by circumventing stress or, at the very least, addressing it head-on healthily? Here at Innova Primary Care, we know that stress is an inevitable part of life. However, we also know stress’s traumatic effect on health and well-being. Let’s look at ways in which you can help control stress in your life and, perhaps, turn it from hard to good.

Life is Hard

We hate to burst your bubble, and we know that mantras such as “It’s all good” just don’t fit the bill most of the time. It would be nice to speak stress away, but this doesn’t always work. The truth is being a person is hard. We each have so much we have to endure daily. There are mouths to feed, people to take care of, jobs to attend to, and let’s not forget all the hype surrounding self-care. It’s enough to drive anyone mad. When you add illness, fatigue, lack of motivation, caring for others, and a whole host of other possible issues, the truth is that living isn’t always easy and is a breeding ground for stress.

The Purpose of Stress

Stress is a physical reaction to stressors in our lives, and in days gone by, it was a survival mechanism. Believe it or not, stress is an evolutionary response meant to preserve life, not end it. See a big bear, feel stress, run for your life. In modern life, there are times when the acute stress response is necessary for survival. Stress helps us be alert to danger and respond accordingly. Those responses can include gearing up for a fight, knowing when to flee, and when to stand your ground and put your skills to use.

Our bodies are meant to be able to handle the influx of cortisol and adrenaline to help us survive under times of duress. Unfortunately, life today often means we are in heightened survival, even though we aren’t in imminent danger. Fears of financial woes and not living up to expectations, which plague many of us daily, keep our stress hormones heightened, leading to health issues.

The impact of stress on health.

We were never meant to carry an overload of cortisol or adrenaline in our bodies, but modern life and its challenges have made many of us susceptible. The implications of stress over time on health are well known. Chronic stress is a problem when it becomes the difference between a life-saving decision and potential health issues. Increased stress over time can lead to various issues, including anxiety and depression, heart disease and even heart attacks, high blood pressure, sleep issues, increased susceptibility to illness, pain, weight gain, digestive issues, and even issues with cognition. Stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, which, in turn, lead to poor health outcomes. None of us are saved from stress in our lifetimes; however, we can do something to control stress in those times.

You are stressed. What can you do to Control Stress?

The reality is you cannot hide from your life. However, you can make conscious decisions to help you navigate the life you lead. Health is more than the absence of disease. Real health is holistic and encompasses mind, body, and soul. For these reasons, Innova Primary is committed to treating the whole person. You may be wondering what you can do to help deal with the stresses in your life. We’ve got some great strategies for you.

Attack Your Negative Thoughts

We all have them. It can be challenging not to attach meaning to the intrusive thoughts in your mind and work them out to the end. However, instead of obsessing over the negatives, you can capture your thoughts and interrupt their negative downward cycle.

First of all, don’t fight the thought. Let the thought into your mind and then replace it with something else. Often, we get stuck in the stress cycle because we think we shouldn’t be thinking such negative things. Rather than punishing yourself for having a stressful thought, replace it with something else.

Ask yourself why you are thinking something negative. Don’t criticize your thoughts; be an outside observer and question. If you need more, write it down. Do not underestimate the power of putting pen to paper. Sometimes, we need to free-write our thoughts and get them out so they do not cause ruminations.

Control Stress

Control What You Can – Let Go of What You Cannot

Often, our stress comes from seeking control of situations we have no control over. What can you do to make sense of your situation? You can’t control someone else, but what can you do? How can you empower yourself to make sense of a given situation? Do you need to write something down? Do you need to take action where you can? Sometimes, knowing what you can control can help alleviate your stress.

Mix it Up

If you are like most people, you might get stuck in a rut. Suppose this is you; why not try something new? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; this can be as simple as going for a walk outside in nature when you feel overwhelmed. Do something unexpected to shift your body and mind out of your situation.

Get Outside in Nature

Get outside. Copious research suggests that time outdoors does wonders to control stress and increase health overall. Time in the great outdoors can relieve stress, reduce blood pressure, increase immune function, help with anxiety, increase mood, and boost your self-esteem.

You don’t have to plan a week-long camping trip to make nature your medicine either, although you certainly can. A few minutes outdoors in the sunshine or amongst the wild can do wonders.

Slow Down and Breathe

Breath-work isn’t just for yogis. When you feel stressed, taking time to attune to your breathing can work magic. Deep breathing has many names: abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and paced respiration, amongst the few. Whatever the name, deep breathing is a great way to get in touch with yourself and help navigate your stress.

Deep breathing can take on many forms. We suggest you start with a normal breath and slowly move into deep breathing. Take a deep breath from your nose, allowing the air to move into your lungs and belly. Hold for a few beats, and then slowly exhale. Deep breathing can help elicit a relaxation response. It won’t cure your stressors, but it will help you understand how those stressors impact your life.

Control Stress

Seek Counseling From a Trained Professional

For some of you, seeing the help of a licensed mental health therapist will be the first step.

It is never easy to admit that you need help, but trust us, having a trained mental health professional on your side is never a wrong move.

Therapists can offer insights that medical professionals often cannot. Mental health professionals have proven tools to combat stress that differ from medical doctors do not. They can meet you where you are and help assist that medications and your support systems can’t.

Stress is a Part of Living

It’s part of life but, many tools are available to help you combat the stressors in your life. There is no shame in asking for help. If stress is taking a toll on your life, please contact Innova Primary Care. We want to see you well and thriving and will do all we can to help create a team of care providers to assist you in living your best life.