Research has shown that daily stress and anxiety can trigger headaches, tense muscles, and even raise your blood pressure. Stress also suppresses the immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness. Here are some easy-to-implement lifestyle changes that can help bring stress down a notch.
Exercise clears your mind and returns the body to a more healthful state. But you don't need to spend hours at a gym to gain the benefits of exercise; even a 10-minute walk can decrease anxiety.
When you exercise, beta-endorphins (the body's natural relaxants) are released. Endorphins counteract the stress hormones raging through your body. "That's why we get a really mellow feeling at the end of exercising," says JoAnne Herman, PhD, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina College of Nursing. When stress overloads your system, the body converts to the "fight or flight" response.
Powered by a surge of adrenaline secreted, your heart beats faster, pupils dilate, blood vessels constrict, and muscles contract -- all physiological responses preparing you to defend yourself.
Besides being a break in your daily routine, exercise gets blood circulating, boosts your mood, and eases tension. "Exercise rids the body of excess energy it really can't do anything about," says Dr. Tara Cortes, clinical director of primary care at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Studies also show that active people have a decreased risk of coronary heart disease, the number-one cause of death in the United States.