NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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The Challenge of Balance

balanced life, stress, managing stress

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

If you think you don't have satisfactory balance in your life, you're not alone.

Stress is your body's signal that an area in your life needs attention. When you receive the stress signal, don't ignore it. Often, this alert tells a person it's time to rest, acknowledge a limitation, make a decision or meet a need.

When ignored consistently, stress escalates to distress. If a person is in distress, they become increasingly vulnerable to physical and emotional setbacks such as anxiety, heart attacks, and ulcers.

A positive approach to managing stress is to develop a balanced lifestyle and become more attentive to personal needs. Yet many individuals neglect themselves trying to meet everyone else's needs, both at home and at work.

A balanced life can include work, friends, family, play, love, time for self and time for spiritual enrichment. The likely result of such balance is not exhaustion but rather a greater sense of well-being.

Some stress can be good for us. It can propel us to get our work done or do our best. You might perspire a little and your heart rate may increase before a challenging task. However, too much stress can lead to health problems. The six leading causes of death in North America (heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents and diabetes) are linked to stress.

In response to stress, some people may become irritable; have difficulty sleeping; lose their appetite; have frequent colds or infections, muscle tension and aches; and have difficulty making decisions. Too much stress may weaken the immune system and lead to chronic illness. We can’t eliminate all stress, but we can manage it.

Consider these tips:

•    Learn to relax. Try meditation or yoga.

•    Make time for fun. Try a new hobby. Do you like bowling, bird watching, skiing or fishing?

•    Take a walk. Physical activity promotes brain changes to enhance emotional well-being.

•    Avoid or limit alcohol and smoking.

•    Share your concerns with others.

•    Create a quiet scene for yourself. Read a book or play music.

•    Work on relationships with the people in your life.

When confronted by stress, some people may seek refuge in food, such as ice cream or other sweets; however, too many calorie-laden foods may lead to weight gain. Are you eating a well-balanced diet?

Some foods may reduce the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. If you need a snack, try foods with complex carbohydrates such as warm oatmeal or whole-grain toast, some fruit and a glass of milk. Be sure you include foods with healthful fats, such as salmon, nuts and seeds, in your diet. Omega-3 fats promote brain health. If crisp foods are your comfort foods, have some crunchy baby carrots, pepper slices or homemade kale chips instead of chips. Visit http://tinyurl.com/prairiefare-kale to learn how to make kale chips.

Visit http://tinyurl.com/webmed-stress for stress management materials and additional information.

Remember, life events don't necessarily cause stress. You have the power to respond either positively or negatively.

Source: Julie Garden Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist and Jane Strommen, Gerontology Specialist


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