Why Choosing a Life You Love Can Be A Life and Death Decision

friends doing yoga together to manage stress

If you took us up on our refreshingly stress-free resolution suggestion from “The Easy, No-Fail New Year’s Resolution That Will Actually Change Your Life,” you started the New Year with plans to start spending more time doing the things you love with the people who are most important to you. 

Well it turns out that spending time being active in ways you enjoy with your friends and family is more than just a good New Year’s resolution. It could help you perform better at work, show up stronger in your relationships, and live a longer, healthier, happier life. And we’re talking about objective, measurable, scientifically-proven improvements.

We’re often led to believe that living a better life comes down to working harder. However, sometimes showing up as your best self is as easy as showing up for yourself. How could doing something so easy and enjoyable as making time in your schedule to hike, walk your neighborhood, play tennis, run, or swim with your friends be more impactful on your happiness, success, health, and quality of life than something like eating more vegetables, losing weight, or hitting the gym every day? It all comes down to stress.


What is Stress?

Stress is a normal part of life. In fact, it’s an intentionally designed system nature has equipped us with to help us adapt and survive to changing situations. Stress is a physical response. The Cleveland Clinic describes what happens in your body when you’re under stress as your body’s autonomic nervous system adjusting your heart rate, breathing, vision changes, and more to keep you alert and motivate you to avoid danger. 


Is Being Stressed Dangerous?

Stress here and there is designed to keep you safe. However, your body can’t always decipher between life-and-death situations and regular day-to-day stressors. Stress isn’t meant to be a constant state for your body to be in. When it is, stress can start to wear down your body and cause real, physical issues including trouble sleeping, headaches, digestive problems, a compromised immune system, muscle tension, and general aches and pains. 

The Mayo Clinic states that, over long periods of time, stress can start to damage your body in more serious ways. Chronic stress can lead to conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cause heart attacks and strokes. 

On top of the physical toll chronic stress can take on your body, it can also do a number on your mental health including causing depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and more.

Stress isn’t “all in your head.” Stress is a real, physical state that has consequences when not managed properly.

So how do you manage it?


How to Manage Stress in a Healthy Way

There are a host of scientifically proven strategies for busting stress. Some of the best tactics include incorporating regular exercise into your routine, staying connected with people who can provide you with emotional support and who make you happy, and doing things you genuinely enjoy. Put them all together for one super-stress-busting, health boosting, happiness heightening tactic. Aka, your “easy, no-fail new year’s resolution that will actually change your life!” 

So yes, having more fun on a regular basis is key to living a long and healthy life.

It’s about raising your overall happiness by incorporating more of the feel-good stuff into your everyday life. We all know exercise and social interaction release those feel-good chemicals that fight off stress. But not so much if those things are stressful instead of fun. This is where choosing the people and activities that you genuinely enjoy makes all the difference. The goal is to fight the stress. Not add to it. 

And you don’t have to rely on having to break a sweat every time something stressful happens. Incorporating regularly scheduled exercise, social activities, and just general enjoyment into your weekly routine will make you less vulnerable to stress in general. By regularly engaging in these activities (think at least two to three times a week), your brain is constantly stewing in those feel-good chemicals, raising your overall happy-brain chemistry and lowering your overall stress. 

This strategy is also a great way to help break unhealthy stress-coping habits. With a happier brain, you’ll be mentally stronger to handle the stressors as they come, whether you have a treadmill readily available to you in the moment or not. Basically, you won’t feel the need to reach for that candy bar, procrastinate, or cry the next time life chucks a lemon at you. Instead, your body will already be fighting off the stress before you even notice it.

Ready to knock stress out cold and upgrade your overall quality of life? Here are some of our favorite ways to combine all the stress-busting tactics into one fun, active, social activity.


Easy Strategies to Beat Stress

  • Take a community class with a friend. The regular class schedule for things like tennis or dance lessons can help ensure your fun activity stays a priority. Plus, you get regularly scheduled friend dates!
  • Schedule a standing group fitness class date with a friend at your gym or community center. Zumba anybody?
  • Sign up for a morning bootcamp with a friend. Trust me, there’s no better accountability buddy than the one you’re abandoning at a kick-butt bootcamp at 5 am. 
  • Join a community club. If you don’t have any fellow runners in your friend group, no problem! Meet some at a local club! There are clubs for everything from hiking to volleyball that you can find and join easily on sites like Meetup.com.
  • Set a goal. Rallying behind a shared goal will add an extra punch of stress-busting magic as you imagine yourself on the other side. (Ideas: convince your family to run a marathon with you or hike to the top of Camelback in record time.)

If you’re looking for ways to help your kids get active and learn to manage stress in healthy ways from the get-go, check out the tips in our blog, “5 Ways to Instill An Active Lifestyle in Your Family.”

What’s Holding You Back?

Are your friends reluctant to commit? Share this blog with them! Who can argue with a longer, happier, healthier life just for hanging out with you?

If you’re living with an injury, it can do more than keep you on the sidelines of your favorite activities. The physical and mental health benefits you sacrifice when you have to give up your favorite hobbies can make life harder in more ways than one. From work to family, stressful situations only become harder to manage if you can’t take care of yourself. If exercise is part of your mental wellbeing protocol and pain is keeping you from implementing it, your day-to-day stressors can go from being rain that rolls off your back to overwhelming situations that snowball. Stress can look like increased blood pressure and heart rate, stomach pains, muscle tension, headaches, and general grouchiness. 

It’s easy to think aches and pains are a side effect of getting older (or an injury that just won’t heal) that requires surgery or painkillers. But really, it’s likely a muscle imbalance or weakness that’s throwing your body into knots. If you’re suffering from physical pain that’s become a source of emotional pain, you don’t have to accept it. You don’t have to forfeit activities with friends and family. Talk with a physical therapist who specializes in holistic, non-invasive, and goal-oriented treatment to get back to doing what you love.

For more information about working with specialists who focus on identifying and treating the root cause of your pain, check out our unique philosophy. Or, apply for a free, 30-minute Discovery Visit with one of our doctors. You’ll discuss what you’ve tried before and what options you have to get back to living the life you love.