Summer is here. As temperatures reach blistering levels, tensions percolate, and stress levels rise. Why is managing stress so important? For a number of reasons, according to Dr. Ema Kulwa of Healthcare for Women.

“Stress can take its toll on our health in many ways. It can cause depression or anxiety, lead to heart disease, and cause high blood pressure and obesity, among other things,” said Dr. Kulwa. “While some level of stress in our lives is inevitable and can even be positive, it’s important for people to learn how to manage their stress for their physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

What is stress?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), stress is the body’s response to any demand or change. Most people can identify with stress caused by negative situations such as the loss of a loved one, an accident, a difficult relationship or interaction, or trouble at work. But stress can also result from positive situations, like getting married, having a baby or getting a new job. Stress can be either long-term or short-term, and can present itself in many ways.

Dr. Kulwa emphasizes the importance of identifying “stressors” in your life – the events or situations that cause you stress – and recognizing how your body responds to those situations. If you know that, you learn to manage your stress more effectively, which can help you:

• Sleep better

• Control your weight

• Get sick less often and get better faster when you do get sick

• Lessen neck and back pain

• Be in a better mood

• Get along better with family and friends

This summer, consider improving your approach to stress management. The following are 10 suggestions about how to improve your stress levels:

1. Be organized. Prioritize your to-do list and plan your time, being realistic about how long tasks will take.

2. Be flexible. While planning is good and can help prevent stress, it also is important to be prepared to change your plans and respond to situations as needed.

3. If you know a stressful event is on the horizon, be prepared. This could mean thinking through responses for an interview or getting a good night’s sleep before a long day at work.

4. Make it a habit to take a moment to breathe deeply and relax. Stretch your muscles, too. Doing these things can relax your body and your mind.

5. Exercise. Incorporating physical activity into your daily habits can help improve your mood and prevent stress.

6. Watch what you eat. Give your body plenty of energy by eating vegetables, fruits, and protein.

7. Avoid drinking alcohol excessively, and do not drink alcohol as a means to manage your stress.

8. Do something for yourself. Read a good book, listen to music, make plans with friends, or enjoy a good laugh.

9. Talk to people. Friends, families or co-workers may be able to help. In addition, verbalizing your stress can help relieve it.

10. Ask for help. If you feel out of control, depressed or too overwhelmed to cope, ask your doctor for help. There are medical professionals who can help you navigate and control your stress.

Stress Relieving Summer Activities

Meditate: Find a peaceful, outdoor location, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy a summer afternoon.

Stop and Smell the Roses: Be cognizant of everything around you. Notice the trees, wildlife, take it all in and enjoy the present.

Keep a Journal: Write down what makes you happy and refer to it when you’re feeling stress’s pinch.

Practice Yoga: Grab your yoga mat, find a quiet outdoor spot and perfect your warrior pose.

If you need help managing your stress you can contact Dr. Ema Kulwa at Healthcare for Women at 434.791.2629

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