Stress is a tiny word for what can become a very big problem. Here we talk about how stress can be good for you, why it’s important to keep it under control, and what we can do to lead a more balanced life.

Making the Most of Good Stress

A small amount of stress at work and home is completely normal. It can actually be healthy when managed correctly and channeled into creativity and positive change. A little stress can make you more vigilant about your and your loved ones safety, push you to meet that deadline at work, and help with problem solving.

Physical stress from starting a new workout regime or pushing extra hard at the gym increases healthy immune boosting and energizing hormones like endorphins, insulin, and human growth hormone. Physical stress can be an excellent tool to help combat mental stress.

Is Bad Stress Really That Bad?

Stress impacts our lives in many ways. Some are obvious – we get irritable with our friends and family, we lose sleep, it can be harder to have fun and enjoy loving moments. Some effects off stress are harder to see at first and can be much more damaging.

Chronic stress leads to increased levels of cortisol which the body cannot absorb. This can interfere with learning and memory, lower bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, and cholesterol. It has also been linked to autoimmune disease. A Carnegie Melon University study found that inflammation from stress actually leads to the development and progression of certain diseases.

“Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control,” said Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology within CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

What Can We Do About It?

The great news is that there are many ways to combat stress, and it’s actually fun finding the path that’s right for you. Changing up your eating habits towards healthy whole foods is a great first step. Health.com recommends adding stress busting yogurt, pistachios, and dark chocolate to your diet. Yummy! Visit our nutrition section for some delicious, healthy recipes.

One of the most important things you can do to combat stress is to take some time for yourself. Ask yourself what gives you joy. What makes you happy? Listen to music, read a book or magazines, take a relaxing bath, meditate, take a walk outside, play with your pets, cook a special dinner. Now is the time to take care of yourself.

Exercise is a proven stress buster. The Mayo Clinic says that, “virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever.” So if spin class isn’t your thing, head to yoga or Pilates. Think running is a bore? Try signing up for a local sports league instead. Start slow with a leisurely walk 30 minutes a day if you need to. This is a journey toward wellness and every small step is important. For a more detailed read up on the ins and outs of stress management, check out this great blog.

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