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Is Summer Stressing You Out? Try These Tips to Chill

Ann Marie O’Brien,
R.N., National Director of Health Strategies, UnitedHealthcare

Each summer we look forward to the sunny weather, schools closing and vacations. However, managing travel, work and social schedules can be stressful.  

A modest amount of stress, offset by periods of relative calm and security, is normal. But high levels of stress can be dangerous to your health, leading to headaches, back pain, fatigue, upset stomach, anxiety, depression and heart problems.

Recognizing stress

Stress is a physical and psychological response to a demand, threat or problem. It can be positive or negative, but it always stimulates and increases your level of awareness, also known as the "fight or flight" response. Positive stress provides the means to express your talents and abilities. But continued exposure to negative stress may reduce the body's ability to cope, which may lead to prolonged health issues.

Your signs of stress may be different from someone else's. Some people get angry. Others have trouble concentrating or making decisions, and still others will develop health problems. The good news is that stress can be managed. Here are five tips to help you manage stress and take control of your health.

  1. Take care of yourself – Eat healthier, engage in moderate exercise and get enough sleep – all of which can improve your health.

  2. Figure out the source —Monitor your mental state throughout the day. Keep a list of the things that create stress. Then develop a plan for dealing with these common stressors.

  3. Do things you enjoy — Go to a movie, meet a friend for dinner or participate in an activity that provides relief. Give yourself a break and take time to care for yourself.

  4. Learn relaxation techniques — Deep breathing is helpful. Meditation and other “mindfulness” techniques are becoming increasingly popular both at home and in the workplace. You can practice mindfulness while sitting in a quiet place or walking. The key is to focus on your breathing or your steps.  The techniques are simple, but achieving the desired result takes practice.

  5. Welcome support — Let close friends or relatives know you’re dealing with stress. They may be able to offer help or support that makes a difference.

Remember, stress is your body’s natural defense mechanism, but being under stress for too long can have a serious negative effect on your health. If you notice stress is becoming an issue for you, talk with your doctor.

For more health and wellness tips, visit UHC.com.