Posts tagged with "stress"

5 Tips to Reduce Stress This Year

5 Tips to Reduce Stress This Year

Stress is an inevitable part of life. We cannot avoid stress, but we can take steps toward reducing the amount of stress we take on. Not all stress is bad. However, long-term stress can harm your health. It’s important to pay attention to how you deal with minor and major stressful events so that you can address them head on, and know when to seek help. Take practical steps to manage your stress and prevent its effects on your health.

Here are 5 ways you can reduce stress this year.

 

Break free from financial stress

Break Free From Financial Stress

About half of Americans believe they are unprepared for a sudden financial need such as the purchase of a new car, appliance or furniture or a significant home repair. Whether it’s saving, budgeting or planning, addressing our financial goals is beneficial for our overall health and wellbeing.

Making the most of your money starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money – The MyMoney Five. Keep these five principles in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.1

1. Earn 

  • Your employer has to subtract certain taxes and other items from your wages every pay period. Your take-home pay (net income) is what you receive after any taxes and deductions are subtracted.
  • Usually, your deductions and withholdings include federal, state and city income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, your contributions for retirement savings, and payments for health insurance provided as part of your job.
  • Be sure you take advantage of all the credits and deductions that help lower your taxes.
  • It’s a good idea to sign up if your employer offers a retirement savings program. Many employers will match part of every dollar you save this way, and you will benefit from it when you retire.

2. Borrow 

  • Borrowing money is a way to purchase something now and pay for it over time. But, you usually pay “interest” when you borrow money. The longer you take to pay back the money you borrowed, the more you will pay in interest.
  • It pays to shop around to get the best deal on a loan. Compare loan terms from several lenders, and it’s okay to negotiate the terms.
  • When repaying a loan, it may be better to pay more than the minimum amount due each month, so you will have to pay less in interest over the life of the loan.
  • One of your most important aids when shopping for a loan is the APR – the Annual Percentage Rate. This is the total cost, including interest charges and fees, described as a yearly rate.
  • Paying your bills on time will help increase your credit score. Even if you fell into trouble with borrowing in the past, you can get on solid footing and rebuild your credit history by making regular payments as agreed.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll free 1-877-322-8228 to order the free reports. Beware of imposter sites.

3. Save & Invest

  • An easy way to save is to pay yourself first. That means each pay period, before you are tempted to spend money, commit to putting some in a savings account. See if you can arrange with your bank to automatically transfer a certain amount from your paycheck or your checking account to savings every month.
  • People who keep track of their savings often end up saving more, because they have it on their minds.
  • If you are making investments, it’s good to consult with a qualified professional about your plans. Before you purchase investments, be sure to build an emergency savings fund to cover your needs for at least three months. Keep the savings in an insured bank or credit union account that you can access if you need it.
  • Many professionals call themselves “financial planners.” Before you hire one, ask for a description of the services offered. A good place to check the credentials of an investment advisor is your State’s consumer protection office, the State’s Attorney General’s office, or the issuing agency for any professional licenses or certifications.

4. Budget & Spend

  • Make a budget or a plan for using your money wisely. Set short and long-term financial goals and manage your money to meet them.
  • A good way to take control of your spending is to set the maximum amounts you plan to spend each week or each month. Once you’ve set the maximum, stick with your plan.
  • It’s helpful to track your spending over a few weeks or months to get a handle on how you are using your dollars and cents. Look into using online systems or phone apps for keeping track of your spending – you will be amazed at what you’ll learn about your habits!
  • Be careful not to let a sale or discount coupon persuade you to purchase something you don’t really need and that isn’t in your spending plan.
  • When planning a big purchase, take time to comparison shop and check prices at a few different stores, by phone or online.

5. Protect

  • A good system for keeping personal money records will include copies of important documents like your will, property ownership documents, and information about savings and insurance. It should include overview of what happens to property after a major life event occurs.
  • Assume that any offer that “sounds too good to be true” – especially one from a stranger or an unfamiliar company – is probably a fraud.
  • Look at your bank statements and bills as soon as they arrive and report any discrepancy or anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized withdrawal or charge.
  • Be wary of request to “update” or “confirm” personal information, especially your Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers, your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name in response to an unsolicited call, letter or e-mail.

Budgeting Basics

Make a budget worksheet to evaluate which expenses are flexible and which are fixed for at least two or three consecutive months. This will give you an idea of how you are spending your money and changes you can make to improve your situation.

Download a FREE interactive, budget worksheet at:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet.pdf

Fixed Expenses

Fixed expenses are items you have little or no control over. You will pay a fixed amount for these expenses each month. Remember, you have some control over certain expenses before you sign a contract, for example, a short-term or payday loan, car loan, or home mortgage. You should shop for the best value before committing to the payments.

Examples include: health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, rent or mortgage, auto loan or lease payment. 

Flexible Expenses

Flexible expenses are expenses that you can control – think about what you need and what you want. This will help you control your spending in this category. What are some ways that you could control the costs of these expenses?

Examples include: groceries, coffee, restaurants, utilities, gasoline, internet, cable, phone or cell phone, car or home repair, activities or hobbies, savings, and emergency savings.2 


References:

  1. https://www.mymoney.gov
  2. https://www.mycreditunion.gov/tools-resources/Pages/Personal-Budgeting-Worksheet.aspx
Stress and Heart Health

Stress and Your Heart’s Health

You may be surprised to learn that you might be bringing unnecessary stress into your life by your own choices and lifestyle habits. It’s important to remember, even during times of stress, anxiety, or depression, that your heart health is vital to both your mental and physical wellbeing.

During stress, your body releases adrenaline, the hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up, and raises your blood pressure1. These are normal reactions (the “fight or flight” response) that help you prepare to face a stressful situation. Constant stress, however, can have a negative wide-ranging effect on emotions, some of which include:

  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  • Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  • Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
  • Chest pain, palpitations, rapid pulse
  • Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  • Increased frustration, irritability, edginess2

Prolonged or chronic stress increases cortisol, the stress hormone, and can wreak havoc on your health by compromising your immune system and contributing to many diseases including high blood pressure. Research shows that excessive stress can affect lifestyle behaviors and factors that increase the risk of heart disease3.

  • Sudden stress increases the pumping action and heart rate resulting in rising blood pressure.
  • Stress alters the heart rhythms posing a risk for rhythm abnormalities in people with existing heart rhythm disturbances.
  • Stress causes certain blood cells to become stickier.
  • Stress impairs the clearance of fat molecules in the body making it more difficult to lose weight.
  • Stress that leads to depression appears to be associated with an increased intima-medial thickness (a measure of the arteries that signifies worsening blood vessel disease)2.

Heart disease accounts for 1 in 7 deaths and remains the number 1 cause of death in the United States4.


Stressors, any event that causes the release of stress hormones, can be different for each person. Stressors can be helpful during emergency situations, meeting deadlines or reaching your goals. But stressful situations, such as divorce or job loss, can produce long, low-level stress that over time wears down the body’s immune system and increases the risk of heart disease and a variety of other health problems5.

When stress persists, it can often affect various organs and tissues all over the body including:

  • Nervous system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Endocrine system
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Reproductive system6

Tips to Reduce Stress

While we’re unable to rid ourselves from all inevitable stressors, fortunately, there are lifestyle changes and stress-reduction techniques you can practice to improve your response to stress and help minimize its damaging effects on your heart and overall health.

  • Exercise. When you exercise, your body releases natural, mood-lifting chemicals that help you feel better. Your workout doesn’t have to be extreme; a short walk every day is all it takes.
  • Nutrition. Eating meals that are balanced and portion-controlled will keep you mentally and physically healthy.
  • Sleep. Poor sleeping habits can have a harmful effect on your mood. It is important to get plenty of sleep and rest. Most people need about seven to eight hours each night.
  • Social Support. Talk with friends and family frequently. Think about joining a special-interest class or group. Volunteering is a great way to meet people while helping yourself and others.
  • Deep Breathing. Taking a deep breath is an automatic and effective technique for winding down.
  • Meditation. Studies have suggested that regular meditation can benefit the heart and help reduce blood pressure.
  • Humor. Research shows that humor is an effective mechanism for coping with acute stress. It is recommended to keep a sense of humor during difficult situations. Laughter can release tension and help you maintain perspective, but it can also have physical effects that reduce stress hormone levels in your body.
  • Avoid Alcohol Use. If you are going to drink alcohol, limit how often you drink, and practice moderation as alcohol may increase your risk of depression.
  • Recognize When You Need Help. If you continue to have problems, are unable to overcome the difficult circumstance, or are thinking about suicide, talk to a professional counselor, psychologist or social worker2,7.

Adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors is instrumental in preserving your health and preventing disease. Health is more than just the absence of disease; it is a resource that allows you to reach your goals, satisfy your needs and cope within your environment for more good years®.


References

  1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp#.WV0hu1GQxQI
  2. A.D.A.M. Stress
  3. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/How-does-depression-affect-the-heart_UCM_460263_Article.jsp#.WVo-IlGQxQI 
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
  6. https://www.stress.org/stress-effects/
  7. nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus
Does a Laugh Per Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Does a Laugh Per Day Keep the Doctor Away?

The average adult laughs 17 times a day while a child laughs 300 times a day.1 There is a reason why we have always heard that laughter is the best medicine. Both humor and laughter can be effective self-care tools to help us cope with stress, especially in the workplace. Finding humor and laughter in stressful situations can give us a sense of perspective on our problems. And it’s good for our health.

“Studies from around the world have shown that an atmosphere of humor results in better patient cure, less anesthesia time, less operating time, and shorter hospital stays.”1

Here are just a few health benefits related to laughing.

  • Improves your mood – can lessen depression, anxiety and help you relax.
  • Improves your immune system – positive thoughts from laughter release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Laughter boosts the number of antibody-producing cells, which leads to a stronger immune system.2
  • Activates multiple organs – stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles.

“Laughter causes the release of beta-endorphins in the hypothalamus, which leads to the release of nitric oxide, which dilates the vessels. And there’s more. Nitric oxide is a chemical that also protects the heart by reducing inflammation and preventing the formation of cholesterol plaque.”2

Laughing is much more than an emotional response to something funny, it also evokes a physical response. Laughing exercises several muscles in the body, including your abdomen, back, shoulders, and facial muscles. Also, laughter is a great workout for your respiratory system! Much like physical activity, such as running, which increases the endorphins that are released by your brain, laughter has the same effect on your body.

So in addition to healthy eating and exercise, add some time for laughter throughout your day to improve your health.

Make Time for Humor Daily

  • Catch up on your favorite TV comedy show
  • Practice laughing for 5 minutes
  • Play with children or pets
  • Host game night with friends
  • Find humor in a stressful situation
  • Share a good joke or a funny story
  • Go to a “laughter yoga” class
  • Listen to a comedy show while working out
  • Spend time with people who make you laugh

References

  1. http://www2.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/factshts/hsw-caw-807.pdf
  2. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2013/02/want-a-healthy-heart-laugh-more/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2762283/
  4. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/video/laugh-therapy

 

 

Journey to Better Stress Management

Journey to Better Stress Management

Stress! This one word may set your nerves on edge. Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Some people cope with stress more effectively than others. You have the power to prevent and effectively manage stress. By doing so, you can help lower your risk for serious conditions like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression.

What is stress?

Stress is the brain’s response to change. Stress is different for everyone. Many things can cause stress and may be recurring, short-term, long-term and for example, may include your commute to work, searching for a job, or moving to a new home. Some changes are more serious than others, and for example, can include serious illness, loss of a loved one, marriage, or divorce.

How does stress affect the body?

Not all stress is bad. “Stress can motivate people to prepare or perform, like when they need to take a test or interview for a new job. Stress can even be life-saving in some situations. In response to danger, your body prepares to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival.”1 

Different people may feel stress in different ways. Some people experience digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger or irritability. People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold.

When under stress you may feel:2

  • Worried
  • Angry
  • Irritable
  • Depressed
  • Unable to focus

Physical signs of stress include: 

  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Tense muscles
  • Frequent or more serious colds

What are the benefits of lower stress? 

Over time, chronic stress can lead to health problems and lead to chronic disease. Managing stress can help you:

  • Sleep better
  • Control your weight
  • Get sick less often and feel better faster when you are sick
  • Have less neck and back pain
  • Be in a better mood
  • Get along better with family and friends

How can I cope with stress?

The effects of stress tend to build up over time. Taking practical steps to maintain your health and outlook can reduce or prevent these effects. The following are some tips that may help you to cope with stress.

  • Seek help from a qualified mental health care provider if you are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, have suicidal thoughts, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.
  • Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
  • Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.
  • Recognize signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
  • Set priorities—decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
  • Note what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
  • Avoid dwelling on problems. If you can’t do this on your own, seek help from a qualified mental health professional who can guide you.
  • Exercise regularly—just 30 minutes per day of gentle walking can help boost mood and reduce stress. Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities.
  • Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises.

If you or someone you know is overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional. If you or someone close to you is in crisis, call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.


References:

1.National Institute of Mental Health:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml#pub3

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/heart-health/manage-stress#the-basics_2

Reducing Stress With Online Mindfulness Program

Reducing Stress with Online Mindfulness Programs – At a Fraction of the Cost of Traditional Programs

Thomas J. Morledge, MD, Didier Allexandre, PhD, Emily Fox, MBA, MSSA, LSW, et al. “Feasibility of an Online Mindfulness Program for Stress Management – A Randomized, Controlled Trial.” JOEM. Volume 58: Number 3, March 2016.

ABSTRACT:

  • Purpose: This study aims to determine feasibility of an 8-week Internet-based stress management program (ISM) based on mindfulness principles in reducing stress in a 12-week, parallel, randomized, controlled trial.
  • Methods: Participants were randomly allocated to ISM, ISM plus online message board (ISM+), or control groups. Perceived stress, mindfulness, self-transcendence, psychological well-being, vitality, and quality of life were measured at baseline, week 8, and week 12 using standard validated questionnaires.
  • Results: ISM and ISM+ groups demonstrated statistically significant improvements compared with control on all measures except vitality and physical health.
  • Conclusions: The ISM program effectively and sustainably reduced measures of stress. The magnitude of improvement is comparable to traditional mindfulness programs, although fewer participants were engaged. This feasibility study provides strong support for online stress management programs, which increase access at a fraction of the cost of traditional programs.

Chronic stress affects many Americans – approximately 35% of North Americans are affected by severe psychological stress.1 Stress is a major public health issue, and calls have been made for better access to stress management programs to prevent and manage chronic diseases. Stress can be reduced by “cultivating mindfulness, a state of consciousness that focuses on individual’s attention and awareness on the present moment and developing a nonjudgmental, conscious awareness of the moment-to-moment experience of one’s environment, thoughts, feelings, and actions.”2, 3, 4

However, stress management programs may be expensive or have limited access. The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of an 8-week Internet-based stress management program (ISM) based on mindfulness principles in reducing stress in a 12-week, parallel, randomized, controlled trial.

The 12-week, randomized, parallel, controlled trial was administered entirely online at the program Website. Participants provided their name and e-mail address and were automatically randomized (using a computer-generated list with a block size of three) into one of three groups: ISM, ISM plus online message board (ISM+), or control. All participants were asked to complete online questionnaires at 0 (baseline), 8, and 12 weeks and to fill out weekly activity logs for weeks 1-8. ISM+ group was asked to participate in an online message board hosted by iVillage.com.

Since high dropout rates are expected for online studies 5, 6, 7, the study enrolled approximately 700 people to obtain the target sample size.

  • 1,204 people received the study description, and 684 (57%) people enrolled in the study between September 2010 and August 2011.
  • The study ended in November 2011. Of those enrolled, 133 (19%) were lost prior to providing baseline data.
  • Of the remaining (81%) who enrolled and completed the baseline questionnaire (n=551), more than half (57%) also completed one or both follow-up questionnaires (n=312).
  • The 8- and 12-week completion rates differed across treatment groups: 41 and 33% for ISM, 44 and 38% for ISM+, and 67 and 65% for the control group at weeks 8 and 12, respectively.

This study demonstrates that Internet-based stress management program (ISM) participants experienced significant reductions in stress. The study found that a person who practices meditation techniques an average of 5 times/week will experience a 6.12 decrease (1.53 times 4) in Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) score versus practicing once per week.

Feedback about the ISM program and message board was provided by 78 ISM and 68 ISM+ participants who practiced the relaxation exercise at least once. Of those respondents, 45% found the overall program to be very or extremely helpful, 35% somewhat helpful and 19% little or not at all helpful.

Approximately one third (35%) of all ISM and ISM+ enrollees showed online program activity for 6–8 weeks, and 42% completed the questionnaires at 8 weeks. Program and study retention may be lower than most small-sample size studies of Web-based programs for psychological disorders, which range from 17 to 98% with an average of about 70%6 ; the rates are comparable to larger effectiveness studies5,7 and may be more reflective of real-world settings.

When asked about how helpful and beneficial specific components were, 53% found the meditation techniques, 43% the weekly audio lesson and 48% the articles to be very or extremely helpful.

This study demonstrated an 8-week ISM program could feasibly and effectively reduce stress. Benefits were sustained through week 12 for a well-educated, mostly female and computer savvy self-selected population. Although the participant completion rate was low, the magnitude of improvement was significant for those who completed the online program. This study provides support for online stress management programs that are publicly accessible and not cost prohibitive.

About USPM and Cleveland Clinic

U.S. Preventive Medicine (USPM) partnered with the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in an innovative strategic partnership to integrate their next generation information technology platform and population health management services with their best-of-class wellness programs and e-Coaching services. Cleveland Clinic Wellness focuses on changing behavior in the “Big 4” causes of chronic diseases (food choices, tobacco, physical inactivity, and stress) through programs such as Healthy Performance with Stress Free Now, Cleveland Clinic Wellness e-Coaching, and interactive online programs Stress Free Now, Go! Foods, and Go! to Sleep. Cleveland Clinic’s Healthy Performance with Stress Free Now and CC e-Coaching have driven remarkable results across a wide variety of industries. Cleveland Clinic has led numerous successful community and institutional campaigns committed to improving the lives of children and adults. Also, in 2005 they were the first hospital to become a smoke-free workplace.


References

  1. Yusuf S, Hawken S, Ounpuu S, et al. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): Case–control study. Lancet. 2004;364(9438):937-952. doi:10.1016/S01406736(04)17018-9.
  2. Baer RA.Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clin Psychol Sci Pract. 2003;10(2):125-143.
  3. Shapiro SL, Oman D, Thoresen CE, Plante TG, Flinders T. Cultivating mindfulness: Effects on well-being. J Clin Psychol. 2008;64(7):840-862.
  4. Chiesa A, Serretti A. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(5):593-600.
  5. Meyer B, Berger T, Caspar F, Beevers CG, Andersson G,Weiss M. Effectiveness of a novel integrative online treatment for depression (Deprexis): Randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2009;11(2):e15.
  6. Melville KM, Casey LM, Kavanagh DJ. Dropout from Internet based treatment for psychological disorders. Br J Clin Psychol. 2010;49(Pt 4):455-471.
  7. Verheijden MW, Jans MP, Hildebrandt VH, Hopman-Rock M. Rates and determinants of repeated participation in a Web-based behavior change program for healthy body weight and healthy lifestyle. J Med Internet Res. 2007;9(1):e1.

Copyright © 2019 U.S. Preventive Medicine. All Rights Reserved.