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Navigating Stress for a Healthier Life

April is National Stress Awareness Month—a time to evaluate how everyday pressures influence our wellbeing. While avoiding stress is impossible, stress management can enhance mental and physical health.

According to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” poll, more than a quarter of adults in the U.S. report experiencing high levels of stress. Additionally, certain states are grappling with higher levels of stress than others. 

As highlighted in a recent CNBC article and a ranking compiled by Komowa using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following states have been identified as having the most stressed-out populations:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Louisiana
  5. Nevada
  6. South Carolina
  7. Georgia
  8. Arizona
  9. West Virginia
  10. Indiana

No matter where you reside, stress is a reality at the pace of life most Americans live. However, prolonged stress can be detrimental. According to the CDC, chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can contribute to various health issues, including weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, and a compromised immune system.

“Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, takes a toll on bodily systems such as the nervous, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems,” explained Jerrica Duty, APRN at Kentucky River Clinics. “Neglecting stress can manifest in various emotional and physical symptoms.

These symptoms, like anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure, are not ones to ignore. “Symptoms are like sirens from our bodies signaling something is wrong,” added Jerrica Duty, APRN. “It’s important to discuss stress with your doctor. Regular check-ups with a primary care provider are crucial even if stress feels manageable. Monitoring factors such as blood pressure, heart rate, and weight can be important indicators of overall health.”

Reducing stress looks different for everyone, but here are some methods from the CDC:

  • Get Quality Sleep: A consistent sleep schedule includes seven or more hours each night.
  • Exercise Regularly: Stay physically active to help improve your emotional wellbeing.
  • Limit Alcohol: Choose not to drink or drink in moderation on days you drink alcohol. Moderation means having two drinks or less a day for men or one drink or less for women.
  • Eat Well: Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, grains, and low-fat dairy. Limit foods with unhealthy fats, salt, and added sugars.
  • Unwind: Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to do activities you enjoy.
  • Create Boundaries: Take breaks from news stories, including those on social media. 
  • Ask for Help: If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, call or text 9888 or chat 

If you experience symptoms of high or low cortisol levels, contact your healthcare provider. Kentucky River Medical Center is here for you—you can schedule online at The Mental Health American (MHA) provides some tips on reducing stress by utilizing a Stress Screener. 

Jerrica Duty, APRN is at the Kentucky River Clinics-Campton location.