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Don’t Stress Out

May. 10, 2013|623 views
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A recent informal survey by the Huffington Post revealed that more than 90% of Americans felt stressed out at least once in the previous month. Many felt stressed at least once a week, or even more often. Survey participants cited many of the usual concerns: home and financial pressures, worries about body weight, and too little sleep.

More formal scientific research suggests the survey’s respondents are not alone. Many Americans are sleep deprived, and have higher than desirable levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Stress has been proven to adversely affect immunity and to increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress is linked to higher blood pressure and lower quality of life. Clearly, it pays to manage stress. Exercise is a good place to begin. Regular exercise helps relieve stress and promotes better sleep.

Another quick way to manage anxiety and stress is to breathe deeply and slowly. Draw a breath deep into you lungs for a count of four. Hold for two additional counts, then release your breath slowly, for another count of four, hold for two, then repeat. The cardiovascular system responds to this sort of mindful breathing by slowing the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure. Studies have shown that it is also possible to change one’s perception of pain just by engaging in slow, deep breathing.

 Busch V, Magerl W, Kern U, Haas J, Hajak G, Eichhammer P. The effect of deep and slow breathing on pain perception, autonomic activity, and mood processing--an experimental study. Pain Med. 2012 Feb;13(2):215-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01243.x. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

 Paul G, Elam B, Verhulst SJ. A longitudinal study of students' perceptions of using deep breathing meditation to reduce testing stresses. Teach Learn Med. 2007 Summer;19(3):287-92.

Schneider RH, Alexander CN, Staggers F, Rainforth M, Salerno JW, Hartz A, et al. Long-term effects of stress reduction on mortality in persons > or = 55 years of age with systemic hypertension. Am J Cardiol. 2005 May 1;95(9):1060-4.

Tharion E, Samuel P, Rajalakshmi R, Gnanasenthil G, Subramanian RK. Influence of deep breathing exercise on spontaneous respiratory rate and heart rate variability: a randomised controlled trial in healthy subjects. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2012 Jan-Mar;56(1):80-7.

Tags:  stress, chronic illness, health tips