Our health is so sacred. We only have one body and we have to make sure we are taking care of it the best we can. We already know that in order to be healthy we have to exercise and eat a balanced diet but there is something just as important to take care of as well—managing stress! We are constantly under a state of stress; worried about work, family, relationships, money, an upcoming event, etc; the point is when there is not one thing, there is another thing. If we leave stress unmanaged, then our bodies are constantly running in a “go go go” state. When our bodies are under this constant state of stress it affects our health. Chronic stress lowers our immune system and can make us feel tired and anxious. Therefore we need to find a way to manage stress that doesn’t include drugs or alcohol. April is Stress Awareness Month and we wanted to share several ways that can help manage your stress levels.
Laughter: As we discussed in last week’s blog, laughter does wonders to our bodies. In addition to a positive mood boost, laughter is also a natural way to de-stress. Laughing helps lower stress by releasing endorphins and helps protect our heart. To learn more about how laughter affects our bodies and stress levels, check out last week’s blog on our website.
Exercise: Daily exercise is important for a number of reasons: it keeps our bodies healthy, it pushes us to eat clean, and it helps our mental health. Not only does consistent exercise improve one’s mental health, it also helps put us into better moods. When we exercise we are producing endorphins, or our “feel good” chemical. The more endorphins that we have, the better our mood is and with a better mood comes less stress and more overall happiness. This is a reason why people go for a run or weight lift when they are angry or stressed, it is a natural way to decompress our moods. Next time you feel overwhelmed with life try doing a couple jumping jacks or go for a walk— your mind and body will feel a difference!
Self-care: It is important for us to take time for ourselves and care of our bodies and minds. Most of us probably have seen how fast stress can sneak up on us and have a negative effect on our health. Stress can lead to anxiety, lack of sleep, depression, agitation, sicknesses and more if left untreated. One very important way for us to manage stress is to provide some sort of self care for our bodies. Self care doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time. Self care is different for everyone. It is something that makes you feel better the next day. Different examples include: going for a walk at lunch, meditating, getting a massage, taking a day off when needed, and or even just treating yourself to a bath and a movie at the end of your day. Whatever version of self care that you enjoy, be sure to provide yourself with it at least once a week.
Therapy: Some people look at therapy as a negative thing when that should not be the case at all! People are often embarrassed to tell someone that they are in therapy. While some people are comfortable talking to their family about their stresses and struggles, others are not and that is where therapists come into play. Therapy allows you to talk to someone who does not know you personally yet can help guide you through portions of your life. Stress is tough and when it is ignored for long enough, it can sometimes become even more difficult to manage. That being said, don’t feel ashamed of talking to someone else about your problems and just know that you are not alone.
Hobbies: Everyone has something that they love to do: cook, exercise, read, write, play an instrument, surf, etc. Whenever you are doing that one thing that you enjoy so much, you are probably not thinking about any stresses. By participating in a hobby that draws your attention away, you are preventing your stress from becoming stronger and you are actually releasing some built up stress through those activities.
Eat a balanced diet: You would be surprised at how much your stress levels are affected by your diet. Do you ever eat processed or fried foods and then instantly feel groggy, bloated, or too full for comfort? If this feeling becomes a chronic thing, then your body is going to be under an incredible amount of stress due to inflammation. You will most likely experience fatigue, discomfort, and maybe even find yourself in a bad mood more often than not. However, once you make a switch to a more whole food, plant based diet with little to no processed and fried foods, you and your body will reap amazing benefits. Those benefits are including but not limited to: increased energy, improved digestion, positive moods, better sleep, and more. Just remember that you are what you eat!
Fix your posture: Our bodies are designed to heal themselves and when it’s under stress, it doesn’t operate properly. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol which lowers our overall health including lowering our immune system and gaining weight. We all have different stresses: chemical, physical and emotional. Poor posture is a type of physical stress on the body. This past year we’ve spent more time hunched over on our computers, tablets and phones which causes rounding of the shoulders and forward head posture. This may result in headaches or neck pain and this posture, or “text-neck” as its often referred to, causes physical stress to the body which has a negative impact on our nervous system. Our nervous system controls all the major functions of the body and when it is under stress, it cannot function properly and our organs may start to get affected. Correcting “text neck” and other spinal misalignments, reduces stress on the body and nervous system, allowing it to regulate our body and organs more efficiently. Listen to the cues your body gives you. If you have headaches, neck pain and/or shoulder tension, go see your chiropractor! If you don’t have one, look for one who specializes in correcting posture.
Notice and eliminate triggers: Stress can be reoccurring in particular situations. For example, some people can get stressed in overwhelming situations for work or school. In order to manage that stress you can: be sure your work and home spaces are clean and organized, buy a planner and mark down all deadlines, and be consistent with sticking to those deadlines. This is just one example and a few ways to help manage a particular trigger, but your triggers may be different. What’s important is that you identify them and discover new ways to help manage them to minimize stress.
Practice mindfulness: Our minds are constantly running all day long, thinking about our next task, what’s for dinner, or how are you going to pick up the kids when you have another obligation at the same time?! Life is one big juggling act and we always seem to find a way to do it; however, with our days being so busy, we rarely have time to check in with ourselves and really be present. Remaining present, even for just a few moments, can help clear the mind and ease any stresses that you may have. Focus on what you are currently doing instead of thinking about everything you have to do. When mindfulness and meditation is practiced regularly you will begin to find yourself more productive with less overall stress and more presence to your day.
In conclusion, let’s take this week to practice being mindful and providing ourselves with different ways to deal with stress.