Stress is a normal part of everyone’s life. It’s the result of a natural process referred to as “fight or flight,” possibly related to our ancestors’ mechanisms for handling incoming danger. “Fight or flight” is a protective response that helped them stay safe—deciding to stay and fight, or flee to safety. It causes the heart rate and blood flow to increase, providing the stamina needed to stay safe. Everyday stressful situations aren’t as simplified (or quite as dire) as this, but tell that to your body! When you’re confronted with something stressful, your body reacts the same way as if you needed to prepare to protect yourself.
The truth is, a little occasional stress can be good. When you’re “in the moment,” the surge of adrenaline you feel can give you the motivation and stamina to get things done. Some stress, like that associated with playing a sport or getting married, can be positive. It shakes you up for a bit, but you still feel good.
However, when your body is constantly faced with stressful demands—mental, physical or emotional—it can begin to wear you down. After all, we aren’t meant to be 110-percent alert, 110 percent of the time. Long-term, chronic stress can weaken your immune system and even make you sick. Studies have shown stress alters your body’s endocrine function, impairing your brain and cellular processes. Chronic stress can also lead to heart problems and make conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma or gastrointestinal problems worse. In some cases, stress may even contribute to depression and anxiety, alcohol and tobacco use, poor eating habits and trouble sleeping.
Identifying your stressors can help you take the first step in managing your everyday stress. In some cases, the right steps can help you reduce or eliminate the situations that are getting you down. Of course, many stressors can’t be completely removed, but by learning good management techniques, you can learn to deal with them head-on.
So, what should you do when chronic stress takes over? Stress-reduction strategies are little techniques you can try during or right after a stressful situation, to help you calm down and regain focus. You may find the following helpful:
- Taking a walk
- Working out
- Taking deep breaths
- Drinking water
- Laughing it off
- Squeezing a stress ball
To help lower your stress levels, try to:
- Prioritize your daily task list.
- Talk to a family member, friend or therapist.
- Exercise regularly.
- Count to ten.
- Practice meditation or yoga.
- Get enough sleep.
While stress has day-to-day symptoms, if you’ve been under stress for long enough, you may also experience:
- Decreased energy levels, production and motivation.
- Persistent fatigue and exhaustion.
- Poor moods and excessive worry.
How to track stress
Tracking your stress is a great way to manage your levels of stress. Keeping a wellness planner is a mindfulness practice that can help reduce stress and provide mental health benefits. Wellness means something different to everyone, so track what feels right to you. If you’re not into journaling, try using a digital stress tracker.
What are stress trackers and what kinds are there?
A stress tracker is a device that monitors physiological stress indicators. Most of these devices focus on your heart. They use heart monitors to track your beats per minute and give feedback. Why is a wearable stress tracker important? A wearable stress monitor can help you pay more attention to your mood, feelings and stressors.
Everyone wants to know the best wearable devices for stress tracking, but the offerings are changing day-to-day. Some options include:
- Muse Brain Sensing Headband.
- Amazon Halo.
- Bellabeat Leaf Urban Stress Tracker.
- Apple Watch.
- The Spire Stone Stress Tracker.
- Versus Headset.
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS smartwatch.
Apps to help track stress
If you don’t have a wearable stress tracker, don’t worry! There’s also several apps for your smartphone, iPad or other interactive device you can use to help track your stress. These include but aren’t limited to:
- Alan Mind (Jour) Daily Journal.
- Daylio Journal.
- Elite HRV.
- The Mindfulness App.
- Personal Zen.
- Relaxing Rhythms.
- Samsung Health.
- Sanity & Self.
- What’s UP?
Meritain Health® Nurse Health Coaching
If you suffer from stress caused by a chronic condition and are a Meritain Health plan member, see if you have access to Meritain Health Nurse Health Coaching. As part of a confidential program, you’ll work with a nurse health coach to set health goals and take steps for a healthier life. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the stress in your life, talk with your doctor.
Stress less and stay healthy!
Be the healthiest version of you by learning how to track and reduce your levels of stress. With these resources, you can stay well and live a happier, healthier life.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.