Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stress proof your day

Did you know that stress, in the small amounts is actually good for you! When the brain perceives a stressor it releases epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and cortisol. In small amounts these hormones increase oxygen, blood flow and energy levels. This is useful for successfully handling stressful events like asking for a raise, performing in a play, competing in a race, etc. 

However, chronic stress can mess with your emotion and negatively effect your body. Ongoing stress can compromise your immune system and dry out the digestive tract, which could lead to irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. Stress also contributes to memory impairment, usually in the form of forgetfulness and cellular aging. Who wants extra wrinkles!

Here are some great steps to stress proof your day:

  1. Reinterpret a negative experienceIf someone cuts you off in traffic; imagine them getting a ticket. No one can drive that way for too long without getting caught.
  2. Give to someone else. Studies show that doing for others increases happiness and a sense of calm.
  3. Jot down attainable goals. Aim for completing one goal a day. Make the goals small and attainable. This is a great way to track what you are doing right and creates a sense of structure and predictability.
  4. Notice at least one good thing that happens to you each day. Make it "real" by telling someone else about what happened. It doesn't have to be big, maybe you finally got out of the house on time.
  5. Meditate. Meditation can actually alter your brain, increasing gray matter in regions associated with emotion regulation and dampening activity in the fear response area of the brain called the amygdala.
  6. Get enough sleep. Lack of adequate sleep causes stress hormones like cortisol to soar, which makes rregulating emotions more difficult.
  7. Exercise regularly. Exercise is a good stressor. Studies show that one hundred and fifty minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week is linked with both reduced stress levels and increased growth of new brain cells, and your jeans fit better!

Singer, Thea. "The Perfect Amount of Stress,"Psychology Today. Psychology Today, April 2012, pg. 80.

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