Veteran Connection: April is National Stress Awareness Month

In the Disney movie "Anastasia," Bartok, the bat, tells his master and friend “Stress — it’s a killer, sir.” His friend was upset over his failed plan. 

Stress is natural defense and is essential for survival. The body responds to stress by releasing hormones so it will return to normal. Stress can be good for you. It can help you meet an important deadline or manage a serious situation.

However, too much of a good thing is still too much. If stress is not managed it can lead to chronic stress and increase the risk of health problems.

Chronic stress can lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to physical illness. It increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by elevating blood pressure.

Some signs of chronic stress include acne, skin irritations, migraines, and hair loss. According to a Harvard study, stress plays a role with your food choices. Unmanaged stress releases the cortisol hormone that increases your appetite. Your cravings tend to be unhealthy foods loaded with fat and sugar.

Managing stress is important to improve your risk of chronic illness and boost your immunity.

Managing stress tips:

• Relaxing techniques. Meditation and breathing exercises can reduce stress by sending a message to your brain to calm down and relax.

• Exercise releases endorphins and reduces the negative effects of stress.

• Socializing with friends and/or family can reduce stress by decreasing anxiety levels and directs our energy outward rather than inward.

• Getting a good night's sleep. Inadequate sleep increases risk of higher stress levels, sleep apnea, and lead to physical and mental health problems.

• Choosing healthier snacks when stressed and finding strategies to help replace stress eating can decrease risk of weight gain.

• Seek help. A counselor can provide ways to manage stress and anxiety.

• A dietitian can help with stress by providing guidelines to promote a healthier lifestyle.

The Veterans Health Administration’s Whole Health website (https://www.va.gov/wholehealth) provides resources for veterans to reduce stress in their life.

Contact an outpatient dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist-RDN) to help you create a healthier lifestyle that can help reduce stress while decreasing the risk of health problems.

We are here to support you while you make changes. We can also help provide resources and walk beside you on your journey to a better you.

In the end, Bartok’s plan fails and he dies. Stress can be a killer. Managing stress can save your life.

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