Modern-day life has redefined what it means to be stressed out. We're grappling with establishing a new normal after a global pandemic, and struggling to cope with scary news of global violence while managing numerous responsibilities and commitments.

It’s a formula for anxiety that can take a toll on your health, according to doctors at Novant Health Integrative Medicine. Integrative medicine is an approach to healing that takes into account the whole person – body, mind, spirit, family, community and environment.

Research suggests that what we call psychosocial stress – the things in our lives that might cause us anxiety or stress – actually has a significant impact on our physical health and well-being.

What science shows

Psychosocial stress has a significant impact on our physical health, and that’s because of the release of compounds called cytokines and other things that can impact inflammation and other processes in the body that have a direct impact on physical health.

Research shows over and over again that continued low-level stress, low-level anxiety can have an impact on our immune system’s functioning. Stress in and of itself doesn’t cause illness, but it can have a negative impact on the normal functioning of our immune system. If we participate in healthy stress-management techniques, we keep ourselves healthier overall, including our physical bodies.

What you can do

Take a few moments to pause. You don't have to stop, because there’s just too much going on, but all of us can take an opportunity to just pause. It brings out an important distinction –people often think that rest and sleep are the same, but they’re not. Sleep happens when we’re asleep. Rest actually happens when we’re awake, and everybody needs the opportunity to take a little break and rest because it fills our reserves and gives us the opportunity to do our best.

Healthy versus unhealthy stress management

Sometimes people turn to risky behaviors or substances or just redouble their efforts at work in an attempt to manage their stress. But those aren’t necessarily healthy. Try to find stress-management techniques that are good for you. It could be laughter or time with friends. It might be watching an inspirational show or listening to music. It might be participating in spiritual practices. It could be talking to a therapist. We may have good friends and family that we can speak to about things, but it helps to have an objective partner sometimes to talk about all the things that are going on in our lives.

When things go from bad to worse

There’s very little certainty to be had anywhere in the world, including our own lives. So it behooves us to work toward getting comfortable with the idea of uncertainty. We can’t control everything that’s going on around us, but we can control our response to it. So stress-management practices are ones of being in this moment, regardless what happens outside us. We can’t change the past. We can’t control the future, but we can control this moment and the way we respond to it.

On worry

We may be worried about what’s going on in the world these days. We can acknowledge that but not let it take over our being and not let it interfere with activities that make us feel loved and connected. We can decide how we’re going to respond to all the things that are happening to us and where we can take control, we really should try to do that.

Exercise matters...a lot

Did you know that regular exercise is one of the best ways to boost your immune system? Exercise helps flush the stress from our system and puts us in a stronger position to fight off illness. Along with sleep and a healthy diet, exercise is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself.

Moral of the story

It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. You have the freedom to say, "I have value, I am worth it." Take some time each and every day to create some place to pause, reflect and perhaps offer gratitude or forgiveness. Any person can benefit from exercising more self-kindness.

Good health starts with a checkup.

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