Every day, we’re exposed to a certain amount of stress. Stress can be caused by virtually anything, including family, friends, work, financial worries, among others. While everyone experiences stress to a certain degree, how you are able to cope with this stress can have a huge impact on your health. In order to maintain good health, you need to learn how to manage your stress effectively and efficiently. And, as it turns out, doctors report that one of the most effective ways to significantly alleviate stress while seriously boosting your health is something you can stop and do right now, at no cost at all… just take a walk.
Negative Health Consequences of Unmanaged Stress
You may not even realize it, but the stress that you experience on a day-to-day basis may be having a detrimental effect on your health. Stress can affect every aspect of your life from your body, to your thoughts, your feelings and even your behavior. Unmanaged stress can also lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Walking to Relieve Stress and Lead to Good Health
Dr. Aaron Michelfelder, a professor of family medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, states that our bodies need time to rest and rejuvenate especially during times of high stress. He states that being in a stressed, uptight mood doesn’t allow the body to relax which leads to negative health consequences. In order to avoid these potentially serious health issues, learning to unwind and relax is essential. According to Dr. Michelfelder, going for a walk is one of the best ways to wind down after a particularly stress filled day. Even better than just taking a walk, is taking a walk in the woods as it has been shown to be an even better stress reliever and offer additional good health benefits. Dr. Michelfelder states that stress hormones rise throughout the day, but by taking a few minutes to walk and reconnect with your thoughts and check in with your body, you will help to lower stress hormones ultimately leading towards better health.
Dr. Michelfelder isn’t the only researcher to note the good health benefits of walking in the woods, researchers from Japan found that walking in the woods may play a role in fighting cancer. Plants that are found in nature emit a chemical known as phytoncides, which help to protect them from rotting and insects. As people walk through nature, they inhale these chemicals increasing their level of natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are one way in which the body’s immune system defends against cancer, so an increase in this type of cell can add to the body’s natural defense against cancer.
Other Ways to Relieve Stress
In addition to taking a walk in the woods for stress relief, you can also try other stress relieving techniques which may include:
– Try meditating – 5 minutes of meditation a day can help to relieve your stress and anxiety.
– Focus on your breathing – learn how to breathe deeply by taking a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. This will help to slow your heart rate down and lower your blood pressure.
– Slow down – rather than always being in a rush, take some time to enjoy the tasks that you’re doing.
– Lean on your support system – talking to friends and family is an important part of stress relief. Sometime you just need to talk about what’s causing stress in your life.
– Laugh a little – watch a comedy or go out with a funny friend. Laughter helps to lower cortisol (a stress hormone) and increases endorphins in your brain which helps to boost your mood.
– Play some music – listening to music helps to lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels.
– Go for a massage/spa day – indulging in something that you enjoy will help to relieve stress.
– Get active – all types of exercise can help to relieve stress by releasing feel good chemicals in your brain.
– Unplug for a while – turning off your cell phone, TV and other electronic devices will help you to wind down at the end of the day, lowering your stress levels.
Whether you realize it or not, stress left unmanaged can be incredibly harmful to your health. Learning effective strategies, to cope with stressful events in your life is important in order for you to experience good health benefits. Taking a short walk in the woods with friends or family in addition to other stress relieving techniques will help you to lower your stress levels and enjoy life to the fullest.