It might seem normal to constantly worry and feel stressed after receiving a cancer diagnosis. After all, it is a stressful time in life. However, research has shown that stress can negatively impact overall health issues. Stress can cause mental health and influence the uptake of unhealthy behaviors. Studies have found that people who experience chronic stress are often likely to show signs of depression, anxiety, overeating or undereating, and sedentary lifestyles. Chronic stress can even cause physical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, and fatigue. As if that isn’t bad enough, recent findings also suggest that stress can aid in the spread of cancer.
Chronic stress is different than everyday stress. It is normal and not necessarily harmful to feel stressed about an upcoming deadline or while running late to work. However, long-term stress (or chronic stress) can cause physical changes in the body. While chronic stress has not yet been proven to increase the risk of developing cancer, it may affect the tumor’s ability to grow and spread. This is likely due in part to the release of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a hormone associated with stress. In a series of experimentations, the tumors of mice exposed to stressful situations (such as isolation) were more likely to grow and spread. Researchers also found that breast cancer patients that reported using beta blockers had a better chance of surviving treatment without relapse than those who did not report using beta blockers.
Luckily, relieving stress doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, wallet-flattening trip to a day spa. Researchers have studied a myriad of ways to counteract the release of stress hormones, and most of them can be done from the comfort of home. In a country where over 70% of adults report frequently feeling stressed, there are many who can benefit from these 10 simple stress-reducing activities.
Do a high intensity interval workout (HIIT)
Exercise is associated with the release of endorphins, or ‘feel good’ hormones. While all exercise is good for your body, the higher intensity workouts have been found to release more endorphins. Regular exercise can also aid in lowering the body’s stress hormones over time.
Find something to laugh about
Much like exercise, researchers have found that laughter can also release endorphins. Spending time with one’s silliest friends or getting drawn into the depths of YouTube can be therapeutic when it comes to stress management.
Talk it out
Sometimes, stress builds mountains out of mole hills. It can be especially difficult to de-stress when the brain is overwhelmed. Try talking it out with a loved one, or even in the mirror. Getting the negative thoughts out in the open can help the brain appropriately process them.
Take time for things you love
Whether stress comes from feeling overbooked or dealing with changes, taking time to enjoy hobbies can ease the mind. Making time for favorite activities is a simple way to show self-love and help the body reduce stress.
Give and receive physical affection
Physical affection makes people feel loved, wanted, and safe. Along with soothing emotional benefits, there are also physiological changes that can reduce stress occurring alongside physical affection.
Spend time outdoors
Getting fresh air and a dose of greenery can be incredibly relaxing and refreshing. Not surprisingly, many studies have found that the great outdoors is a great remedy for feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. The calmness of nature counteracts the constant stimulation people are exposed to in everyday life and relieves stress as a result!
Play with a dog
If exercise, fresh air, and physical affection can reduce stress, imagine what a playful game of fetch can do! Studies have found that spending time with a pet can produce oxytocin, another ‘feel good’ hormone.
Limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
Though often considered a stress-relieving vice, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine often cause anxiety and sleeplessness, which contribute to the body’s stress response.
Clear your mind
One common reason people don’t practice the aforementioned stress relievers is because they feel as if there is not enough time. Stress often tricks the brain into feeling overwhelmed and pressed for time. Luckily, clearing the mind and taking some deep breaths only requires a couple minutes and can be done from anywhere. Practicing meditation at the start of the day, in the shower, at lunch, or before bed can greatly relieve stress.
Seek professional help
If chronic stress is interfering with every day functions, it is important to speak with a doctor about these issues. A doctor may be able to recommend supplements, prescribe medication, or recommend a therapist to assist with stress management.