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Keep Calm and Carry On (in Good Health)

stressHealth & Wellness • 2 min read • Apr 22, 2015 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith

The human body has a complex relationship with stress. In some regards, stress is a positive thing that motivates us and allows us to make snap decisions in compromising situations. Yet, stress is also a significant burden that can lead to physical and mental damage that causes or complicates potentially harmful conditions such as high blood pressure or sleep disorders. So what is the solution for managing stress to keep the instinctual fight or flight response in check? It turns out there are many ways to battle stress, but one of the most effective is to find leisurely activities that are so engaging that they distract you from the source of your stress altogether.

Detrimental effects of stress

When stress does become a chronic problem, it takes a toll on the mind and body. Stress may interfere with concentration and memory, and it can put you in a consistently irritable state. One of the most prevalent health problems in the United States, heart disease, is significantly affected by stress, which can drive up blood pressure, cause arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), or limit the body’s ability to recover from existing cardiovascular problems. Plus, stress tends to promote bad habits like overeating, smoking, and excessive drinking, which can all lead to even more health problems.

Leisurely activities and your health

Exercise is often regarded as an excellent stress-reliever, since it stimulates the production of feel-good hormones and helps to ease physical tension in the body. While physical activity is valuable in managing stress, it is not necessary to run a mile whenever you feel stress getting the best of you. Participating in non-physical leisure activities that you truly enjoy—whether you would define that type of activity as cooking, socializing, painting, sewing, or reading a book—can be an effective stress management technique too. When you are taking part in an activity that captures your attention fully, you will forget about stress as several physiological processes take place to calm you down. Your heart rate may drop and you might feel the burden of stress wash away as you take a mental escape in an activity that keeps you fully engaged. What’s more is that the calming effects of these activities can last for hours after you have moved on to other parts of your day.

Adverse health effects of boredom

Another consideration when it comes to leisure activities is the relief of boredom. Being bored can be just as damaging for your body as being stressed, since boredom may lead to habits like binge eating or passively watching television for hours at a time. To determine if an activity is worthy of leisure status in your life, consider whether you are tempted to let your mind wander by looking at your text messages or updating your Twitter feed. If you are not drawn in by these distractions, you have probably found the ideal release to help you keep stress at bay.

Your healthcare should never be a source of stress in your life, which is why MeMD provides professional consultations from licensed healthcare providers on your schedule.

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Kat Smith