A New Year’s Resolution: Reduce Stress to Improve Your Health

The clean slate of a new year is a great time to make New Year’s resolutions. In our busy times, finding a way to reduce stress often tops the list. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on overall health in a number of ways—and it can affect a person’s joint health, too. The good news is there are steps you can take in the coming year to deal with the things that stress you out—and improve your health while you do. 

How stress affects overall health

Everyone experiences stress of some sort, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. When it’s negative, the distress that occurs can result in an array of physical problems and symptoms including:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Problems sleeping (insomnia)
  • Skin conditions
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Additionally, if a person is unable to cope with stress in a healthy way, they may seek relief through harmful habits such as overeating, smoking, and using alcohol or drugs—all of which can negatively impact health. 

How stress affects joint health

Stress can have a ripple effect across the body—depending upon how a person deals with it. As noted, if you’re a “stress eater” who consumes extra calories as a way of coping, obesity could become an issue. Since being overweight puts extra strain on your joints—you may end up with joint pain that is a secondary result of your stress. 

Stress also contributes to the symptoms of autoimmune diseases—such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). When this is the case, reducing stress may have a positive impact on reducing RA symptoms, too. 

Additionally, consider how stress impacts your posture, the way you manage physical tasks at work, and the pain in your neck that may be directly related to emotional overload. When stress-related tension causes you to do things in a manner or at a pace that isn’t good for your body—physical injury of some type may result. 

Tips for reducing your stress

Although stress is a reality of life, the good news is there are healthy ways to deal with it. Here are a few tips to help you cope with stress to limit its impact upon your health: 

  • Exercise on a regular basis. Engaging regularly in a physical activity you enjoy can help to relieve stress, release endorphins (substances in your body that give you a lift), decrease inflammation, and improve range of motion. 
  • Eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can contribute to a number of health problems and impact self-esteem in the process. Eating a healthy diet can help you feel better and support weight loss at the same time. 
  • Consider alternative therapies. These may include things like massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, music therapy, meditation, and yoga. All offer various benefits that can support relaxation and stress relief. 
  • Express yourself. Instead of stuffing your feelings, it can be helpful to find a way to get them out. This may include keeping a journal, talking to a friend or counselor, or engaging in some form of creative expression—such as art therapy.   
  • Help someone else. Extending a hand—such as volunteering in some way—can make you feel better about yourself and the world around you. 

If you would like to better understand the effects of stress on your health and strategies for dealing with it, we can help.  Contact us today.