6 Ways to Stop Stressing about Disease

Carol Bradley Bursack | Mar 16th 2016

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Many people are genetically predisposed to developing certain diseases, among them diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. It’s natural to worry if you’ve watched family members endure the illnesses. However, the cortisol released in your body by chronic stress, which can be caused by worry, could increase your susceptibility. The fix? Be proactive. Limiting stress may not completely protect you from the disease that you dread, but it can help your overall health and, for some diseases, this could help you avoid a trigger. Where do you start?

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Exercise

Yes, this is repetitive. It’s repetitive because it’s true. A reasonable amount of exercise can help stave off many diseases. You don’t have to run marathons but you can probably walk a few blocks. You don’t have to lift weights at a gym, but you can do some stretching and light weight work at home. Think of each move as a gift to your body. Find exercises that you’ll actually do and not give up on.

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Healthy Diet

Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect but it should be balanced. If you don’t come near the daily recommendation of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, consider a supplement. A good, balanced diet is better than fad diets or huge amounts of the popular food of the day. Balance with food is much like balance with exercise. Try to find a reasonably healthy diet that you can stay with and again, consider this a gift to your body.

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Stay Socially Active

You don’t have to be a social butterfly if that’s not your personality, but you should include other people in your life. Personally, a great evening for me consists of quiet time and an enormous book. However, I am aware that this kind of life is far too attractive to me, so I seek balance that honors my personality but promotes some sociability. When we share ourselves with others, happiness is enhanced and thus lowers our stress levels.

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Spiritual Health

Although many people receive great comfort and sustenance from belonging to a religious group, staying spiritually healthy doesn’t require you to become “churchy” or religious. Spirituality is about connecting to someone or something larger than yourself. Whatever gives you a feeling of peace and helps you feel less alone is a good path to follow. Read, explore, ask friends how they stay grounded or visit groups whose members you admire.

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The Takeaway

Chronic stress is often a matter of self-care. Note that I said chronic stress. We’ll all have stressful events in our lives. How we handle these events, and whether or not we let stress rule our lives, is what matters. When we are proactive, we can limit worrying about disease and instead live our lives in a positive way. Limiting stress limits cortisol which can diminish our susceptibility to disease.