There are very few good things you can say about stress. Aside from increasing awareness and improving physical performance, too much stress in your life can be physically and emotionally debilitating. Chronic stress causes health problems ranging from heart disease and high blood pressure to infertility, headaches and increased belly fat.
Stress can also damage your hearing health. When you stress, your capillaries constrict. That's a good thing if you sustain a flesh wound because your bleeding will be restricted -- but it's not good for your hearing health. Restricted blood flow can damage the hair cells in the inner ear and permanently impair brain function.
So how do you reduce your stress?
Eat a balanced diet.
Although there aren't any specific foods that specifically reduce stress, concentrate on eating a balance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eating well protects your hearing health, too, especially when you include healthy doses of folate (spinach, black-eyed peas and other leafy greens) and omega 3 fatty-acids (fish). Feel free to eat dark chocolate as well. In addition to lowering the level of stress hormones, it is rich in antioxidants.
Get daily exercise.
Whether you're training for a marathon or just enjoy taking the dog for a walk around the block, daily exercise is a great way to get your blood pumping, elevate your mood and protect your hearing health. Studies show that regular aerobic exercise actually helps preserve hearing function in older adults by increasing the circulation and oxygen flow in our bodies.
See your doctor regularly.
Health conditions can make us tense and create stress so make sure to see your doctor regularly. Don't forget to ask him to check your hearing, too. Regular exams can catch a variety of hearing health problems that may be correctible if detected early.
Strengthen relationships with friends and family.
Having a strong support system goes a long way in reducing stress levels. It can also be beneficial for your hearing health as it's often a family member who is the first to notices changes in your hearing health.
Find reasons to laugh.
Laughing lowers the level of stress hormones and strengthens the immune system by releasing health-enhancing hormones.
Get a dog.
Studies show spending time with the family pet is an effective stress reducer. Playing with our pets helps take our minds off our problems and fulfills our natural instincts to care for something other than ourselves.
Learn how to relax.
Think about the things that make you happy and indulge in them more often. Yoga, meditation, recreational reading and listening to good music are a few suggestions to get you started.