While chronic stress is not a direct killer, it definitely places individuals at high risk for serious and potentially deadly medical conditions in the future. Studies show that stress has been linked to cancer, suicide and depression. Therefore, it is very important to find ways to relieve stress, or at least to try to reduce one's exposure to chronic stress. While acute stress is ever-present in our everyday lives and almost impossible to completely eliminate, it is not as harmful as chronic stress. Ideally, everyone should take preventative methods against the transition from acute stress to chronic stress.
Usually, stress management is the key for both prevention and treatment of chronic distress, as it aims to improve everyday functionality and quality of life by dissipating tension, both physiologically and psychologically. It is also important to note that there is such thing as "good" stress (eustress), and that studies have shown eustress can actually help dissipate "bad" stress (distress).
Below are several common methods that can be used to treat existing chronic stress. If these methods are practiced on a routine schedule, then they may be very effective in immediate amelioration of acute stress, and can also prevent chronic stress.
Studies have shown that physical exercise can help relieve distress and tension, physically and mentally. Although eustress is created during physical exercise, it is the "good" type of stress that will leave a person rejuvenated and energized. Generally, medical professionals recommend 30 minutes of light walking per day as the minimal amount of exercise to help control stress. If adapted into a routine schedule, physical exercise is a powerful preventative measure against chronic distress, and against medical issues in general.
Diet alterations are another method to possibly treat and prevent chronic stress. Increased intake of Omega fatty acids, or the "healthy fats," found in salmon, tuna and mackerel, has been shown to alleviate stress and to protect the heart and arteries from stress risk factors. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamin supplements, especially B, C, D and E, will help decrease the inflammatory properties of cortisol and adrenaline within the body. Foods high in antioxidants can also help strengthen the immune system and tissues by eliminating free radicals. Dark chocolate, which is also full of antioxidants, can also be a stress relieving food, due to its calming effects.
While alternative stress relievers are not widely practiced in western medicine, studies have shown that they can be effective as stress relievers. Some methods, such as meditation, hypnosis, acupuncture, massage and natural herb therapy (such as chamomile and lavender teas) are widely popular for stress relief. Deep breathing techniques can also quickly calm acute stress as it replenishes the body with more oxygen and removes excess carbon dioxide and lactate from the body. Yoga is another popular method for stress relief, as it focuses on the relaxation of the body and mind. However, before implementing any methods of alternative therapy, be sure to consult a professional or a healthcare provider for the plan that fits you best.
Small altercations in lifestyle choices have the benefit of stress relief and prevention. For example, an individual who has a passionate hobby is shown to utilize it as a source of stress reliever because he or she finds pleasure and joy in the activity. People who have strong social circles, families or kinship are also less prone to chronic stress, due to the strong emotional and psychological support system. While controversial, studies also show that sex is a great outlet to release stress, as well. But most importantly, a positive mindset is the most powerful treatment and prevention method against chronic stress; try seeing the world with a "glass half full" mentality, and you may find yourself feeling less stressed and tense.
Medication and Therapy
For western medicine, doctors may prescribe drugs as appropriate to relieve stress. However, it is important to note that various side effects can accompany the medication, so it may be better to use this option as a last resort. Sometimes, the medication is used to treat results of stress, such as depression, so it is important to first try to ameliorate the culprit before resulting to medication. Sometimes, doctors may have an affected individual undergo psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy as treatments for stress. These types of therapies, normally executed with professional therapists, often focus on the mind and psyche of the patient so that stress-causing issues can be perceived in a less stressful way. One example of such therapy is musical or paint therapy.
Since each individual responds to stress differently and at different degrees, you may need to find your stress relief method through trial and error. There are endless methods of stress management, so be sure to consult a medical professional so he or she can discover the most effective way to help you treat any existing chronic stress and to prevent future episodes.