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6 tips for managing stress (and reclaiming your life)

Stress, your body’s response to emotional, intellectual or physical demands, is a natural part of life. But when you’re very busy, it can feel as if stress is taking over your life. How can you strike a balance between a healthy amount of stress, which contributes to alertness and motivation, and an unhealthy amount of stress, which can increase the likelihood of medical conditions such as depression and heart disease?    

For Dr. Leah C. Cordovez, internal medicine practitioner with Nashville Medical Group at Baptist Hospital, the secret is learning to recognize the warning signs of unhealthy stress, and then managing that stress with a healthy, balanced lifestyle. 

“Stress is essentially your body’s ‘fight or flight’ reaction to emergency situations. But that’s the thing – it’s only meant for emergencies,” Cordovez said. “When you’re stressed all of the time, it’s not just stress anymore. It’s distress, which is a physical condition that wears down the body’s defenses.”    

There are many physical signs and symptoms of chronic stress, or distress. These signs may include: 

  • Racing heart
  • Aches and pains
  • Dizziness or trouble concentrating
  • Indigestion or acid reflux
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
  • An increase or loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling tired or exhausted 

For those experiencing the symptoms of chronic stress, Cordovez recommends the following steps to manage that stress. Ways to reduce stress and reclaim your life include: 

  • Set priorities and use them to guide decisions about your activities. Don’t say “yes” to everything and everyone.
  • Keep a positive attitude and accept that there are events/circumstances you cannot control
  • Exercise regularly and eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Learn to manage your time effectively
  • Make time for those you love. Also, make time for yourself and your interests.
  • Cut back on caffeine and get enough sleep 

Having trouble managing stress? If so, Cordovez notes that seeking assistance from a psychologist or other mental health professional may be helpful. 

“Stress is part of life, but it shouldn’t be your whole life,” she said. “Seek help and learn to reduce and manage it now – doing so will yield huge health benefits down the road.”  

For more information about Saint Thomas Health, please visit www.sths.org. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Cordovez, who sees patients in Nashville, visit www.nashvillemedicalgroup.com or call 615-284-1450.

 

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