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Combatting the Effects of Stress

Feeling constantly overwhelmed can affect your body in different ways. Here are four common concerns that could arise—and how you can help improve them
Written by 
Teresa Dumain
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 

When thinking about stress in your life, you may be most acutely aware of its impact on your state of mind. But stress—especially chronic stress—can have further-reaching effects. You’ve undoubtedly noticed some of them, but there’s also a chance you haven’t made the connection to others yet.

Like anything else, addressing the results of your tension isn’t as effective at providing you lasting relief as getting to the root of what’s causing it in the first place. That said, becoming more aware of stress’s connection to certain health concerns can help raise your awareness of them and encourage you to do what you can to tame them while getting your levels under control.   

Discuss your symptoms with your doctor to determine if they could be, at least in part, due to stress. These techniques have proven helpful for four commonly related issues:
 

High Blood Pressure
Try: Transcendental Meditation


Practicing transcendental meditation can be especially helpful when your blood pressure (and heart rate) increase due to stress, as it has been shown to help balance brain activity and regulate your circulatory system. This type of meditation involves using a mantra to get to a peaceful state, silently repeating a word, sound or phrase to narrow your awareness and quiet any jumbled or overwhelming thoughts.

You may find other types helpful, too. Explore the many benefits of meditation and choose from a variety of techniques.


Headaches
Try: Biofeedback

Tense postures, fatigue and other issues associated with stress commonly lead to headaches (and other body aches) for many people. Biofeedback has been shown to help address that discomfort by analyzing what exactly is happening to cause your pain. During a biofeedback session, you’re connected to electrical sensors that monitor different parts of your body, such as brain waves or muscle tension. With the information collected, your therapist can suggest solutions that may help. For example, the sensors can pinpoint tight muscles in your shoulders that are causing tension to travel up into your head, and you can learn how to relax those specific muscles (with stretching, meditation, breathing techniques, etc.) to reduce your pain.

More: Healing Therapies for Headaches

 

Anxiety
Try: Yoga


Regular exercise is a great way to quell stress, but practicing yoga in particular may help reduce the anxiety that can come along with it. While there are many different forms of yoga, offering various levels of intensity, moving through and holding poses while focusing on your breath keeps you in the moment, quiets your thoughts and helps you feel centered. Your concentration and awareness in the present is what helps the anxiety subside—you’re not thinking about tomorrow or worrying about what may happen next. Hatha yoga, in particular, has a slow pace and simple movements, making it a great option for those trying it for the first time, though you should talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

More: 5 Soothing Evening Yoga Poses

 

Insomnia
Try: Progressive Muscle Relaxation


Racing thoughts and constant worry caused by stress can certainly make it tough to fall asleep, even when you know a good night’s rest might help you feel better. Progressive muscle relaxation is a slow, soothing technique that may help quiet your body and mind. How it works: Tense the muscles in your head and neck for at least five seconds, then relax for 30 seconds. Do your shoulders next, then arms, and work your way down your body, one muscle group at a time, ending with your toes. Try it when you get into bed, or if you wake and have trouble falling back asleep.

More: 5 Simple Seated Stretches

Reference(s) 
American Heart Association
American Psychological Association
Hypertension (April 2013)
Mayo Clinic
National Institutes of Health
National Sleep Foundation
University of Maryland Medical Center
About the author 
Teresa Dumain has been covering health for over a decade. Her work has appeared in Prevention, Reader’s Digest, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and EverydayHealth.com. She’s based in New York City.