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Work it out

There is no better way to beat stress than to work up a sweat. And NCH's Wellness Center is designed to help you do just that. Call 847.618.3500 to schedule a tour or visit the Wellness Center to learn more.

Stressin' About Stress?

Beat the chronic effects of stress with a change in approach. Here's what you can do to break the cycle

When we feel stress, we're experiencing natural physical and emotional reactions passed down from our ancestors, who had to cope with more dangerous threats than tomorrow's work presentation. But those threats were occasional. Today, stress is nearly constant—and it can affect your health. It can build up from juggling the demands of work, family and other daily commitments in our nonstop lives. And not only can stress sap your energy, make you irritable and weaken your immune system, but it can also be bad for your heart.

Battling the Bothersome

Stress causes a cocktail of chemicals—including adrenaline—to spill into your bloodstream. This helps you survive an extreme, immediate physical emergency. If the source of stress goes away, the chemicals' levels subside.

But if your body is constantly reacting to stress, the cumulative effects of the chemical reaction cause fatigue, irritability and an increased susceptibility to illness or disease.

The good news is that we're far from powerless when it comes to stress. The American Heart Association offers these tips for managing stress:

  • Don't keep sources of stress bottled up. If something's bothering you, talk to a family member, friend, confidant or a member of the clergy.
  • Take time every day for yourself. Try to breathe deeply for 10 or 15 minutes and think about something pleasant that you recently experienced or that you have planned for the future.
  • Take a brisk walk and get some fresh air. This is the tough part if you're feeling tired, but it's worth the effort.
  • Don't let yourself get backed into corners. Avoid overcommitting your time or resources; say "no" when possible and try to look ahead or plan for time crunches.
  • Try not to project your anxiety. This can raise your stress level. The upcoming dentist appointment or dinner with the in–laws is not likely to be as bad as your imagination suggests. Relax, breathe and smile.

Feeling Dark and Dreary?

If you're stressed, it's harder to sleep. If you're tired, it's easier to become stressed. And because the days are shorter in the winter, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition in which you experience depressive symptoms repeatedly in the winter months, can increase anxiety, which increases stress.

It's a self-perpetuating cycle that can affect both your emotional and physical well-being. Break it by following this advice from experts:

  • Open blinds and shades to let as much light indoors as possible, and get outside on sunny days.
  • Exercise regularly to relieve stress (but not too close to bedtime).
  • Clear your head of those leftover issues well before bedtime. Try writing them down so you can come back to them tomorrow; consider keeping a notepad on your nightstand to help with this.
  • Establish a regular bedtime so you get plenty of rest.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009