Deadlines. Performance reviews. Presentations. Challenging co-workers. Even the best jobs can be stressful. While we all experience stress from time to time, chronic stress takes a toll on our mental and physical health. National Walking Day seems the perfect time to consider some of the ways in which we can reduce our stress levels.
As determined by the American Heart Association, chronic stress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, back and neck pain, abdominal pain and muscle tension. Stress is also a culprit in mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, many of the behaviors we use to cope with stress — over-eating, smoking, drinking alcohol and burning the candle at both ends — only put us at greater risk for health problems.
“Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes,” according to staff at the Mayo Clinic.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to begin your stress-reduction regimen. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Shake a leg
You don’t need to be a marathoner to make a difference in your health. A little bit can go a long way toward reducing stress. Whether it’s swimming, biking, running or yoga, being moderately active for as little as 30 minutes five times a week
can be life-changing. And while there are many ways to be active, walking has several distinct advantages. It’s safe, free, and easy to adhere to when compared to other forms of exercise.
Walking is also something that most people can fit into their workdays. A 2015 study by scientists at the University of Birmingham
and reported by Gretchen Reynolds
of the N.Y. Times
found that “On the afternoons after a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they hadn’t walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk.”
No, really breathe! It’s free, and can be done anywhere. Setting aside a half hour for abdominal breathing can do wonders to reduce stress and anxiety by increasing the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system says Kellie Marksberry
, executive director of the American Institute of Stress
Talk it over
If your stress is specifically work related, it’s best to have a talk with your manager. Come prepared to discuss your concerns as well as some possible remedies. Perhaps there are ways in which your manager can help you to prioritize your assignments, better manage your time or find ways of completing tasks in a more efficient way. Be open to suggestions and feedback.
Make sure you carve out time to do things that make you happy. In our digital world, it is tempting to be on call 24-seven. Resist that tendency. Your health demands that you take time away from work to recharge by spending time with people and activities that give you joy.
To read more about work-life balance, check out these blog posts: