Tools to Manage Chronic Stress

women holding her head in chaotic office environmentChronic stress is hard on both your body and your mind (and your relationships, too!). When your body’s stress response is activated over a long-term period, all your systems are flooded with cortisol and other stress hormones. This can lead to physical problems like:

  • Headache
  • Digestive issues
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

It can also contribute to serious mental health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficult concentrating

How can we manage stress over the long term?

Managing chronic stress is different from the ways in which we cope with stress in the moment. The goal is to reduce our overall levels of stress so that every day is a little easier to handle. It’s not as hard as it may sound—all you need is the right set of tools.

Tools for resilience

These healthy habits can make us more resilient toward stress, naturally:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Practice good communication with others (which includes saying “no” when you need to).
  • Take laughter breaks (cat videos, anyone?).
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Cut back on caffeine and sugar.

Tools for eliminating stressors

Here’s one of the biggest tips we can offer: Ask for help when you need it. We all get overwhelmed from time to time, and you may find that those around you would love to “trade” help to make everyone’s lives easier. For example:

  • Find a carpool buddy so you can alternate taxi services to school, church, sports practice, etc.
  • Share lawn-mowing duties with a neighbor, so each of you only gives up every other Saturday morning.
  • Trade childcare with a trusted friend or neighbor.

Tools for relaxation

If you don’t allow yourself a little relaxation once in a while, your exhausted mind and body will make you! Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Take a long, hot bath (bonus points for essential oils and/or bubbles!).
  • Try meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
  • Get a massage.
  • Read a good book.
  • Go for a nature walk.
  • Put your feet up and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Spend time with a pet.
  • Cuddle with a loved one.
  • Listen to music.

Talk to your doctor

If you still feel overwhelmed with stress after trying some of these suggestions, please talk with your health care provider about ways to help. You certainly won’t be the first patient to ask for guidance. 

If you do not have a primary care physician, our physicians offer doctor-patient relationships built on trust, commitment and expert care. Our physician offices are located throughout the Tampa Bay region. Find a doctor near you or call, 1-800-BayCare for a physician referral.