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Simple Ways to Relieve Stress

National Stress Awareness Month


Catherine Cattanach, Aspirus Behavioral Health Physician Assistant

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), around a third of adults report that stress is completely overwhelming most days. Worries about work, money, health issues, family responsibilities — as well as broader issues like discrimination and climate change — can pile on the stress.


“Stress is a normal part of the human experience, but too much of it can keep us from feeling and performing our best. If it’s overwhelming or prolonged, it can have lasting effects on our physical, mental and emotional well-being,” says Catherine Cattanach, Aspirus Behavioral Health Physician Assistant.


When we experience stress, it sets off a chain of physiological events. The body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes our breathing and heart rate to speed up and our blood pressure to rise. These reactions prepare us to deal with the situation — the “fight or flight” response.


Long-term activation of the body’s stress response system, along with prolonged exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, may put us at risk for health troubles such as digestive problems, anxiety, headaches, depression, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration issues, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.


“Learning to cope with stress and finding healthy ways to deal with stressful situations can go a long way towards living a healthy and positive life,” says Cattanach. “If your current go-to is to turn to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, overeating or physical inactivity, that’s probably a good place to start.”


Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try these stress busters from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and American Heart Association (AHA):


  • Exercise and eat healthy
  • Get regular sleep
  • Avoid excess caffeine
  • Keep a journal
  • Download an app with relaxation exercises
  • Spend extra time with your pets
  • Take a walk in nature
  • Identify and challenge your negative thoughts
  • Explore mindfulness meditation
  • Reach out to your friends or family

If you are struggling to cope, or the symptoms of your stress begin to interfere with your everyday life, it may be time to talk to a health care professional. Find an Aspirus provider at / find-a-provider.


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