Beat Stress in Ten Easy Steps
Beach Metro Community News
As the holiday season has come to an end and we are beginning a new year, we can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the most stressful time of year is behind us. However, most of us are experiencing stress on a continual basis, whether we know it or not. It is how we manage the stress that is important. Stressful situations can be short-lived – lasting only a few seconds, or prolonged – lasting weeks, months, or even years (e.g. work, relationship problems, financial worries, illness, etc.) Although short-term stress can be beneficial (to give us motivation, to increase productivity, and to make life more interesting), continual stress for long periods of time can be detrimental to our health. In fact, it has been estimated that 75 to 90% of patient visits to primary healthcare physicians are for stress-related problems! Almost any symptom or illness can originate from stress.
Having said that, it is evident that we cannot completely eliminate stress from our lives; therefore, we must learn how to deal with it effectively, before it begins to impact us (and those around us) adversely. Below are ten general steps to help one cope with stress.
1. Exercise Evidence supports long-term benefits of regular exercise, including: detoxification of stress-related compounds, outlet for negative feelings, release of muscle tension, improves sleep, stimulates release of endorphins (pain-reducing chemical substances in the body), and increases resistance to disease.
2. Relaxation techniques Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi/Qi Gong, taking a warm bath, or getting a massage can help to reduce tension caused by stress and can also help to rejuvenate a person.
3. Develop a positive attitude Try to refocus negative thoughts into more positive ones. Remember, how stress affects us is largely dependent on how we react to it. A negative attitude is a predictor of stress.
4. Laugh! Laughing has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease, decrease stress hormones, stimulate the immune system, reduce muscle tension, improve brain function, and elevate mood. So you see, laughter is truly the best medicine!
5. Learn effective time management Organize time better by prioritizing tasks. Delegate tasks when necessary – do not try to do everything on your own! Avoid procrastination
6. Obtain proper sleep Avoid vigorous exercise or consuming foods that are overly stimulating just before going to bed (e.g. caffeine, sugar). Maintain regular hours of sleep.
7. Improve diet and dietary habits Most people tend to eat poorly during periods of extreme stress. It is at this time when we need the most nutrients to support our bodies. Eat a variety of whole foods, rich in vitamins and minerals (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains). Avoid caffeine, alcohol, refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour), processed foods, fast food, etc. Eat in a relaxed environment and not while emotionally upset or when in a rush.
8. Nutritional supplements and herbal medicines Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner to find out what nutrients or herbs can benefit you specifically. B-complex vitamins and vitamin C are usually depleted during periods of stress. A multivitamin-mineral supplement may be beneficial to maintain adequate nutritional status. Essential fatty acids may be indicated to help support the nervous system and the immune system. Adrenal glandular extracts may also be needed to help support the adrenal glands (the organs most directly affected by stress). Rhodiola, ginseng and licorice root (caution if someone has high blood pressure) are adaptogenic herbs, which help the body cope with stress. Chamomile, lemon balm, and oats are helpful herbs which can calm the nervous system during stressful periods. Various Bach Flower Remedies and homeopathic medicines can also help to alleviate emotional stress and anxiety.
9. Take a break from work If you are sitting for most of your workday, stand up, walk around and stretch every hour or two.
10. Make time for yourself Every day, do something to take care of yourself and make time to do the things that you enjoy.
Note: This article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment by a qualified healthcare professional.