New Year’s Resolution: Stress Less

stress

After the busyness and pressure of the holiday season, it’s not surprising many people are determined to conquer stress when the time to make New Year’s resolutions rolls around. It’s a good idea regardless. Stress can contribute to heart disease, by increasing the heart-rate and raising blood pressure. It worsens asthma symptoms, and the children of a stressed person have a higher risk of developing asthma in the first place—to say nothing of the fact that stressed-out people are likely to be heavier smokers and create an environment with secondhand smoke. It leads to obesity, again both directly and indirectly through association with poor eating habits.

However, managing stress presents some obstacles. A certain amount of stress is fundamentally external, meaning it comes from other people whose actions the person experiencing stress cannot control. However, there are things that can be done to reduce the impact. Smiling more can help. Just as being happy makes people smile, smiling has been shown to make people happier, and less stressed. More broadly, keeping an optimistic outlook on life trying to can help make someone more mellow and chill. Spending time with friends, and building a friend network generally, can help mitigate stress by reducing feeling of isolation. Cutting back on caffeine can have a calming effect as well.

Sometimes, people make New Year’s resolutions that are not themselves about stress, but that can support stress reduction, whether or not that is an intended outcome. Some people may decide that this will be the year they meditate more, or do yoga, or even simply carve out time for themselves. All of these things are good for relaxing and reducing stress levels. Exercise is another common resolution with a calming effect on people. A good workout burns off adrenaline and gives a person the opportunity to get out aggressions. Spending less money, another common resolution, can lessen or eliminate a major cause of stress.

Other resolutions can hurt the cause. Things like eating better, quitting smoking, or cutting back or giving up alcohol all mean lower stress levels in the long run, but trying to do these things simultaneously with reducing stress is a recipe for disaster. Smoking, drinking, and eating comfort foods—which are not always especially healthy—are all helpful in momentary, temporary destressing, and the last two in particular may actually be helpful as temporary coping methods while building a long-term strategy that is healthier.

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