For millions of Americans, work is a highly stressful responsibility. If you’re like most, you come home at the end of a long day and experience a significant amount of physical and mental tension. Learning how to unwind could dramatically improve your health.
The Dangers of Chronic Stress
Stress is a natural human response to external stimuli. It’s our body’s response to potentially dangerous situations – preparing us for fight or flight. But over the years, our body’s stress systems have evolved, and stress has become less about fight or flight and more about our response to things like work, money, health, relationships, and politics.
Millions of Americans now experience a state of chronic stress where their minds and bodies are unable to relax fully. According to the Global Organization for Stress, 75 percent of adults report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month (while nearly half say that their stress has increased in the past year).
But it’s not just adults. Stress is a top health concern for American high school students. Psychologists say that teens need to learn how to manage stress now. Otherwise, it could have serious long-term health implications.
For adults and teenagers alike, the health effects of chronic stress are alarming (and quite possibly catastrophic). As the American Psychological Association explains, stress can affect the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, male reproductive, and female reproductive systems. Symptoms can range from minor aches and pains to life-threatening diseases and the formation of mental illnesses.
5 Healthy Ways to Unwind
If you experience high levels of stress and find it challenging to relax at the end of the day, something must change sooner rather than later. Finding healthy ways to unwind in the afternoons and evenings after work will prove enormously helpful for your health.
- Disconnect from Technology
If you’re like most people, you spend most of your day tethered to a screen. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you’re constantly connected. And for all of the positives that technology affords you, it also increases your stress levels. Make it a point to completely disconnect from technology at the end of the day. This will give you the opportunity to slow down and block out the noise.
For many westerners, meditation seems a little strange, but millions have discovered that it’s actually highly beneficial for both physical and mental health. According to Gaiam, some of the documented benefits include lower blood pressure, improved circulation, lower heart rate, lower anxiety, and greater feelings of well-being.
- Smoke a Cigar
There’s nothing quite like sitting on the back porch and smoking a cigar at the end of the day. Leave the technology inside and sit with your own thoughts. Cigars are made to be smoked slowly, which forces you to savor the moment. Pair a good cigar with a nice drink for a tasty, relaxing pairing. (Contrary to popular belief, FDA research shows that there are hardly any ill effects of smoking just one or two cigars per day – so enjoy!)
Physical fitness isn’t just good for you body – it’s also equally powerful in terms of promoting mental health. When you exercise, you command your body to release pain-killing endorphins that defeat stress and anxiety at the source. For best results, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.
- Participate in a Hobby
If your life consists of eating, sleeping, and working, something needs to change. You need at least one other activity in your daily routine. Finding a hobby that you enjoy – whether it’s sewing, golfing, painting, collecting, etc. – will provide you with an additional outlet for stress at the end of a long day.
Stop Normalizing Chronic Stress
No matter how common it may be in your social or professional circles, chronic stress isn’t normal. To live a healthy and enjoyable life – both now and in the future – you must find ways to get a grip on chronic stress. Relaxing and unwinding at the end of the day is just one way to interrupt the cycle of chronic stress. For best results, look for additional opportunities throughout the day.