While grief, sadness, and anxiety can have a large impact on you, Maryellen Dance, a licensed mental health therapist, says stress has more of a powerful influence than any other emotion. “Stress is something we feel every day—sometimes multiple times a day,” she said during a webinar for Intuition. “Unfortunately, today in our society, it’s almost accepted to be stressed… and weird if you’re not stressed about anything.”
But just because it’s “accepted” doesn’t mean you should ignore it. When you don’t manage stress effectively, it doesn’t just damage your quality of life and relationships—it can also hurt your health. “Stress kills people. Heart disease is the number one killer in America, and cortisol is creating all of these artery blockages that cause heart disease,” Dance says. Aside from your heart, the Cleveland Clinic says stress can also affect your lungs, muscles and joints, your gut, immune system, mental health, and more.
Since stress is unavoidable, you have to learn how to tackle it head-on. Here are three ways Dance says you can do just that.
3 Ways to Beat Stress
1. Believe That You’ll Be Okay
Past research has shown when you believe stress is a part of life but know you can handle it and get through it, you’ll be healthier and better off than those who believe stress is harmful for their health. Whether you’re dealing with a small stress or a big stress, Dance says to take a step back and remember you’re resilient and have gotten through a lot in your life. It’s a hard step, but a powerful—and potentially life-saving—one.
2. Connect With People
Something you can do to combat the effects of stress is connect with others. “Oxytocin is secreted when we hug people or when we’re close to others or when we’re bonding with others. It’s aso a natural anti-inflammatory,” Dance says. “The next time you’re stressed and your significant other, family member, or child wants to snuggle, that’s going to help. It’s going to release the oxytocin in your brain that needs to be released.” Pro tip: Cuddling with your pup works, too. So does having a good cry.
3. Recognize Stress For What It Is
Dance says of the biggest things you can do in terms of stress is recognize what it is. “Remember stress is a bodily reaction that’s designed to help protect you from threats,” she says. “Recognize this emotion is happening because it’s supposed to happen—because it’s designed to protect you. It’s a feeling, and feelings come and go in waves. And sometimes those waves crash on you and knock you over.” If you’re prepared for those waves, you’ll be just fine.