Understanding Stress and Practicing Mindfulness
By Megan McBurnie, MSN, AGNP-C

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. In response to stressful situations, your body releases hormones and chemicals that prepare you for action. Your heart rate quickens, you breathe faster and your blood sugar rises to give you energy - your body shifts into overdrive. The problem arises when these stressful, high-alert, situations last for a long time, rather than minutes or hours. Chronic stress has been shown to cause higher levels of inflammation and is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorders, insomnia, memory loss, and overall functional decline.  

Because most stressors aren't things you can't get rid of (e.g. work, family, finances), it's important to learn healthy ways to cope and build your resilience. As a society, we tend to place a lot of value on how much we can do and how fast we can do it. It's important to remember - you are a human being - not a "human-doing"! Allowing yourself time for exercise, socialization with friends and family, and sleep is vital to building resilience and combatting stress. Seeing a counselor or a therapist can also be helpful in identifying the sources of your stress and learning new coping tools.  

Beyond these recommendations, studies have also shown that practicing mindfulness can effectively relieve stress. Being more mindful is within anyone's reach. You can practice mindfulness throughout the day even while answering emails, sitting in traffic, and waiting in line. Mindfulness practice can be as simple as bringing attention to your breath and feeling your feet on the ground as you sit at your desk or taking the time to listen to your body as you enjoy your food at lunch. Mindfulness is a simple concept and is an effective tool that anybody can use to reduce stress.