Encountering stress is inescapable, but it turns out that how we deal with it in the short term has long-lasting effects on our long-term health, happiness and overall well-being. You’re probably no stranger to the idea that stress has negative impacts on our health, however, most of us likely associate these impacts with high-stress events such as losing a job or a loved one.
According to the lead author of the study, Kate Leger of UC Irvine’s Psychology and Social Behavior department, “when most people think of the types of stressors that impact health, they think of the big things, major life events that severely impact their lives, such as the death of a loved one or getting divorced, but accumulating findings suggest that it’s not just the big events, but minor, everyday stressors that can impact our health as well.”
Previous research has associated effective same-day stress management with better long-term health outcomes, but until now, researchers had yet to examine those whose bad moods linger well after encountering stress. In this most recent study on stress and health, research shows that even the smallest of everyday stresses harms our long-term health if we allow ourselves to hold on to those negative feelings. According to Leger, “our research shows that negative emotions that linger even after minor, daily stressors have important implications for our long-term physical health.”
Minor Stress Affects Health, but Learning to Manage Stress Can Curb These Effects
Leger’s team analyzed data from the Midlife in the United States National Longitudinal Study of Health and Well-being. As part of the study, participants filled out an eight-day survey that recorded their daily emotional states and explained what daily stressors triggered the recorded emotions. Ten years after the initial survey was conducted, the participants reported whether or not they had developed a chronic illness or if they had experienced any other health issues that interfered with daily life.
The researchers discovered that people who let their bad moods carry over into the next day tended to have more health issues, more chronic illness and greater functional limitations later in life. The team’s findings were consistent even after adjusting for recent stress, and the effects seemed to be present regardless of gender or baseline health. Leger explains, “this means that health outcomes don’t just reflect how people react to daily stressors or the number of stressors they are exposed to, there is something unique about how negative they feel the next day that has important consequences for physical health.”
Learn Not to Sweat the Small Stuff to Be Happier Now and Healthier Later
The team’s findings suggest that learning to effectively recover from daily stress is crucial to our long-term wellbeing. Encountering stress in our lives is normal and sometimes even beneficial, but before you allow yourself to become overwhelmed by it all, remember that there are many ways that you can take charge, and that, ultimately, holding on to those bad feelings is the worst thing you can do.
“Stress is common in our everyday lives. It happens at work, it happens at school, it happens at home and in our relationships. Our research shows that the strategy to ‘just let it go’ could be beneficial to our long-term physical health,” concludes Leger.
Ways to Manage Stress Naturally
Stress could be affecting your health even where you don’t recognize it. Left unchecked, stress weakens the immune system, causes high blood pressure and contributes to the development of major illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and major depression. Here are a few healthy techniques you can use to alleviate the long-term effects of short-term stress.
Stop, Find Perspective, and Prioritize.
Take a step back from the situation to think about the source of the stress. If the stressor is unavoidable, consider the steps you can take to take control of the situation. Regularly making to-do lists or keeping a bullet journal is a great way to avoid overwhelm by keeping things in perspective.
Use Relaxation and Mindfulness Techniques.
Stress is often the result of feelings of overwhelm. Meditation and breathing exercises reduce stress, relax the body, and help the mind to regain focus.
Key to both mental and physical health, research shows that regular physical activity promotes overall better health, reduces anxiety and alleviates the symptoms of depression. Even a 20-minute walk has immediate effects. Consider yoga for a great low-impact workout that is proven to reduce stress and even help balance hormones.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet.
Growing research suggests that what we eat greatly affects how we feel. For instance, magnesium deficiencies have been linked to increased anxiety and depression, while proper intake of omega-3 fatty acids has shown to lower cortisol levels. Getting the right nutrients is integral to the body’s ability to properly manage stress.
Make Use of Natural Herbs and Essential Oils.
Certain essential oils, like chamomile, frankincense and bergamot, are proven to lower cortisol levels. Likewise, the use of adaptogenic herbs reduces stress levels while also boosting the body’s ability to cope with stress. Macabido Women’s Formula includes therapeutic herbs such as lavender, eleuthero and maca, which are clinically proven regulate stress hormones and promote wellbeing.
Talk About It.
Sometimes talking it out with someone is the easiest way to let off steam. Socializing with friends and family or seeking out support networks of people with like minds or similar issues is a great way to relieve stress through understanding and validation.