Most human beings don’t get through life without dealing with their fair share of stress. But some people seem to deal with more stress than others. For instance, according to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), both low-income populations and racial minorities have a greater risk of developing mental and physical health issues as a result of stress. The APA report focused on the need for raising public awareness regarding the stress-inducing implications of persistent exposure to subtle biases and microaggressions.
In the meantime, what can these populations do to manage their stress so they experience better health outcomes? Here are some proven stress management techniques to cope with whatever life throws at you:
Reframing is an exercise that allows us to see the whole picture. Often times, when we experience a negative situation, we become emotionally wrapped up in the negative. But life is complex, and often there is good to be seen along with the bad. The good may be how we handled a situation or how our friends and family gave us support and strength. When we reframe, we step away from our emotions to look at the situation fully and honestly.
Stress causes tension in the body, and this tension can result in chronic health issues such as high blood pressure and chronic inflammation. It’s important to learn healthy ways to bring about relaxation. You might try tools such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and biofeedback for managing your stress.
Over two decades of research on mindfulness shows that it is highly effective in managing stress. Mindfulness meditation involves fully focusing your awareness on the present moment. Through this practice, you accept your thoughts and feelings without judging them. There are a variety of online resources to help you get started.
MOVE YOUR BODY
When we are stressed, our body experiences the “fight or flight response.” This entails a number of stress hormones to be released into our bloodstream. These hormones make our hearts beat faster and direct blood flow away from our brains and core into our arms and legs so we can remove ourselves from the perceived danger.
But for many of us, the danger is not physical but mental and emotional. And so we don’t burn through these hormones and they linger in our bodies causing damage. For instance, one of the hormones released is cortisol, which if levels are left unchecked, can cause high blood pressure and damage to the brain.
Exercise is one of the best ways to burn through these “fight or flight” chemicals. In addition, exercise helps with the production of feel-good endorphins.
These are just some of the ways you can better manage the stress in your life so it doesn’t negatively impact your health. If at the end of the day, you need more help, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health therapist who can provide you with even more stress management tools.