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Staying Out of Distress Can Have Important Benefits for Your Body

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We all know how it feels to be stressed out, but what you may not know is that stress can also have an impact on your body. In her latest Healthy Living report, Jill Urban shows some ways to de-stress to avoid putting your body in distress.

Labor Day marked the unofficial end of summer, and for many, that means it's back to reality and back to the daily grind. With that often comes stress.

"Stress usually starts with a mental thought or an emotion," says Anu Abraham, a doctor of physical therapy at Shift Integrated Medicine. "And then, what ends up happening is, you end up storing it some place in your body. So anything that your mind hasn't wrapped itself around and relaxed, your body is still holding on to that in some way."

Abraham says many people dismiss the physical toll stress can have on the body.

"Stress leads to tightening in the body," she says. "The muscles tighten, the blood vessels tighten, your heart rate changes, your blood pressure changes, your digestive system changes, sleep changes. So over time, it can end up turning into longer-term disease."

It can also turn into chronic pain. But before it gets to that point, Abraham says there are simple things you can do to prevent stress from putting stress on the body.

Simple exercises can make a difference. You first need to recognize where you carry stress. For example, many people feel it in the neck and shoulders.

"What I usually suggest is moving the shoulders, circling them around, letting them shrug up and exhaling, just letting them drop. Tilting the head from one side to the other," Abraham says. "Movement can actually help ease the tension and increase your flexibility."

If you carry stress in the low- or mid-back, she recommends an exercise called cat cow. While on all fours, breathe in and round the back, then breathe again and arch the back. This will help loosen things up and move that tension along.

Of course, when you're stressed, you should simply just stop and breathe. Stress makes us hold our breath, so simply taking a few deep breaths in and out, or even a few quick shallow breaths, will help move that stress along and prevent it from impacting the body.

All these things will not only help your body, they will also help your mind. When stressed, we often feel out of control, and Abraham says these techniques can be empowering because while you can't necessarily eliminate the cause of the stress, you can help eliminate the effect it will have on your body.

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