Stress Less, Live More: Four Ways to Improve in 2018

Stress is all around us.

Recently, we heard from an old friend who walked away from a successful 20-year sales career because the stress gave her severe stomach ulcers. Her health 
literally deteriorated from the high-stress environment.

And she isn't an isolated case... Stress is on the rise in America. We see it in the constant barrage of bad news, our obsession with keeping up with the neighbors, and in the increasingly long hours we work.

The truth is, people tend to overlook stress. We're too busy to take care of ourselves. We've even heard people outright scoff at the idea of taking time for self-care.

Here's the thing... stress has a massive effect on both your investing ability and your health.

Investing is inherently stressful. That's because we fear losing money. Originally the fear center of our brain kept us safe from dangers like predators and fire. Today it registers fear in losing money... because money ensures our security and safety. That causes many investors to buy or sell at the wrong time. That means you're likely to lose too much or give up bigger gains.

And as in the case of our friend with the ulcers, stress also causes health problems. Stress wreaks havoc on your sleep, and studies have linked it to the buildup of arterial plaque (which leads to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke). Stress also increases your risk of diabetes and even suppresses your immune system, which leaves you vulnerable to illnesses.

The scary part... in a report from the National Council on Compensation of Insurance, it states up to 90% of all primary care visits are due to a "stress-related complaint." Other studies put the figure at 75% – which is still too high. That's why getting a handle on stress – no matter the source – is so important.


Four Stress-Busters to Try Today

No matter the kind of stress you're experiencing, there are some excellent ways to get relief. Consider this self-care as a part of your normal health care routine. Brush your teeth, wash your hands, and take time to fight stress.

The key is to release neurotransmitters in our brains to help calm our stress and anxiety. So we picked a few practices we use that help get those good hormones flowing...

Find a relaxing routine. Crafting out a few minutes of your day just to de-stress is critical for overall health. In fact, sticking to a regular routine is a good way to manage everyday stressors. Making a cup of tea is a great way to relax, as is a warm bath. Our managing editor Chris enjoys tea with the stress-buster lavender. Check it out here.

Exercise. Sometimes stress gets in the way of taking time for a workout. Don't let that happen... Set aside some time for exercise a few days a week. Exercise triggers neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that lower our stress naturally. Hitting the treadmill or exercise bike is how our co-founder Laura takes care of stress and keeps herself healthy.

Turn up the tunes and say some "oms." Music is a fantastic way to lower stress. That's because music stimulates dopamine production, which makes us happy. Even better, dopamine helps the nerves in our brains fire better. That helps us keep our brains working well as we age. What's more, meditation also releases dopamine. So combining the two in a daily practice will boost your stress-busting ability.

Spend time with your pets. Interacting with animals, particularly dogs and cats, stimulates neurotransmitters that make us feel happy and relaxed. That's because petting a dog or a cat increases the levels of another brain chemical, oxytocin. This hormone has a lot of health benefits, from pain reduction to lower blood pressure. And it doesn't have to be a pet you own... you can get similar benefits by volunteering at your local animal shelter.

Try adding one or more of these tips to your daily routine and let us know how you feel! Drop us a line at 
[email protected].

Here's to a fresh start,

Amanda Cuocci & Laura Bente

Baltimore, Maryland

January 21, 2018