Spring is a time for warmth, smiles, and - in Pittsburgh - an often uneven mix of sunshine and April showers. But in many cases, it’s also a time for change. Unfortunately, unexpected life changes and other unforeseen circumstances often bring unwanted stress into our lives.


It’s really hard to go about your daily tasks while dealing with stress; stress makes us agitated, anxious, and less willing to do jobs we might have agreed to previously. Not only that, 43 percent of adults will complain of some type of health effect that’s related to their stress level. Some of these ailments include the following:


  • Headaches

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Heart Problems

  • Diabetes

  • Asthma

  • Arthritis

  • Upset Stomach

  • Chest Pains

  • Insomnia


Fortunately, there are several ways that patients such as yourself can effectively relieve stress, whether that stress is caused by your daily life or by tumultuous times. Most of these options involve creating a more relaxing environment for our bodies to unwind in. When we let our bodies rest in a calmer state, the unwanted side effects from stress often fade away, giving our bodies a little healthy boost in the process. Additionally, reducing the stress levels in our lives can also contribute to an increase in memory function and a decrease in stroke risks.


Ready to find a stress-relief technique that works for you? Try one, two or all of these suggestions, and see if they - or a combination of them - help you relax and decrease the amount of stress in your life:


1. Take A Deep Breath

It’s amazing what a simple deep breath can do. Deep breathing releases endorphins throughout the body; these endorphins actually decrease your perception of emotional and physical pain, and so help to relieve stress. Exercises that encourage deep breathing are also known to increase blood flow throughout the body and give us the energy we need to tackle daily tasks. The most effective breathing technique is when you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth; so next time you get overwhelmed, just take a minute to breathe and see if it helps.


2. Look Up

As silly as this one sounds, there is in fact a scientific reason to try it! When you start to feel overwhelmed in a situation, stop and look at the ceiling for about 60 seconds. Start with slow, deliberate counting to minimize distractions in the room. Not only will averting your eyes from a situation help you to focus on something else, but by stretching the muscles in your neck to gaze upward, you’ll stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your body’s heart rate and relaxes your mind.


3. Journal Your Worries

Sometimes, writing down your thoughts and worries puts your stress in a much more manageable space. On a piece of paper, you can see everything you need to do laid out in front of you. Then, you can tackle these issues one step at a time. Besides reducing stress, journaling has been linked to a decreased risk of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions. Plus, recording your thoughts and symptoms is also a good way for you to communicate with your doctor about what you’ve been going through.


4. Get Moving (A.K.A. Exercise)

When your mind’s racing, sometimes the best thing to do is to get your muscles moving as well. While some would rather not exert even more energy while they’re stressed, exercise helps a lot of people relax after a hard day’s work. Whether you bike, jog, or lift weights, exercising releases endorphins in your brain; these endorphins decrease your perception of pain and worry, leaving you feeling calmer and refreshed. This trick is also good for your physical health in general, since getting up and about is the key to staying fit, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping a number of organ systems in good working order.


5. Turn Up The Tunes

Maybe breathing isn’t for you, or maybe you don’t have time to exercise until later in the day. If this is the case and you need some immediate stress relief, try listening to music to bring your stress levels down. Music has been shown to lower cortisol levels - A.K.A. the stress hormone - in the body. And by offering you something to temporarily focus on other than the source of your stress, music can help your body normalize and leave your mind a little clearer. This will not only reduce your stress levels, but will also help you focus and leave you better able to deal with the stressful task that you’re handling.

Whatever way you choose to relax, it’s important to give your body and mind a chance to catch up with the thoughts running through your head. While a little bit of stress can be a motivator for you to complete a chore ahead, too much stress can contribute to the development of troublesome symptoms and debilitating diseases. If you think you may be having a problem with stress or stress-related pains, contact your primary care doctor for more information on ways to reduce the stress in your life.

*Image courtesy of Pixabay.com