Recent studies performed by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that Americans are one of the most stressed-out populations in the world. 77% of Americans experience stress that affects their physical health while 73% report that it impacts their mental health. APA stated, "we are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come."
The best way to overcome negative stress is to become more aware of its impact. The effects of stress on the body include but are not limited to headaches, increased depression, tense muscles, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, and risk of a heart attack. Ultimately, it is how an individual accepts and handles stress that determines whether or not he or she can adapt successfully to change.
Exercise in any form has been shown to act as a stress reliever. Recent studies have shown that participating in aerobic exercise at least twice per week significantly reduced overall perceived stress. Some examples of aerobic exercise include swimming, cycling, walking, jump roping, and boxing.
Practicing self-care showed improvement in reducing the physiological responses of stress and feelings of depression. Good ways to practice self-care include journaling, reading, spending time in the sun, and participating in hobbies. Not only do these activities help reduce overall perceived stress, but people also reported they improved their overall quality of life.
Stress can affect nutrition, but nutrition can also affect stress. Poor dietary habits and added stress can lead to increased visceral fat and increase the risk of heart attack and high blood pressure. Consuming a majority of whole foods was associated with lower levels of stress, decreased depression, and improves glucose control. Eating a balanced diet can not only reduce stress but also improve the overall quality of life.
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