Just Breathe, Dealing with Stress
We all know how difficult life can be and how stressful things in our lives can get- from work related stress to stresses in your personal life and more. We also know how damaging this stress can be on our body, mind and spirit. Stress is your bodies way of reacting to a harmful situation whether it is real or perceived. A chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to protect yourself from harm and injury by reacting. This is known as the "fight or flight" reaction and it is the stress response that your body has. When the "fight or flight" reaction kicks in during a stress response your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. This is your bodies way of preparing you to either stand your ground and handle what’s coming (to "fight") or to run and get away as quickly as possible (to "flight"). However not all stress is bad, our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. These small doses of stress can have many advantages such as helping you to meet daily tasks and challenges, motivating you to meet goals, and it can even help boost your memory and accomplish tasks more efficiently. What our bodies are not able to deal with is the long-term, chronic stress. This is what causes harm to our bodies. This stress can be emotional or physical and when it lingers for weeks or months it can weaken the immune system, cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. It may be tough to tell when you’re experiencing good or bad stress, but there are important ways that your body lets you know that you’re struggling with too much stress. Watch out for the following warning signs:
- Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
- Get sick more often, weakened immune function
- Body aches
- Other illnesses like autoimmune diseases flare up
- Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake
- Changes in appetite
- Angrier or anxious than usual
If you are experiencing the negative kind of stress that can be harmful and have more of an impact then the healthy small doses of stress, then here are some suggestions for dealing with the negative stress and to help reduce the impact it can have on you physically and mentally:
Get Active- Regular exercise is a wonderful way to keep stress under control. Not only does regular exercise help to free the body of stress hormones it releases endorphins which are the feel good happy chemicals our brain produces. Exercise does not have to be overly strenuous, even 30 minutes a day of activity like walking will get your heart rate up and get you feeling good.
Get Enough Sleep- This can be hard when you are stressed out because stress can cause insomnia and anxiety, and when your mind is racing it's hard to get and stay asleep. However, trying to maintain regular sleep habits will benefit you in the long run. You can try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each night and day to train your body to know when it should get tired. This will aid you getting in better sleep and less sleep deprivation. Also maintaining a before bedtime routine each night will help you get your body and mind ready for rest, soon enough you will be sleeping like a baby.
Eat Better- Your body needs to be healthy to run smoothly, you need to be properly fueling your body so it can do what it needs to keep you feeling your best. Make sure you are drinking enough water which is shown to relieve stress. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake which are known to increase stress, and try eating several smaller meals throughout the day with more complex carbohydrates. Some examples are green veggies, fresh fruits, brown rice, whole grains, sweet potatoes, quinoa, lentils, garbanzo beans. And of course more fresh fruits and veggies never hurt.
Learn to Relax- Use distraction techniques to take your mind off of the things you are worried about and try not to fixate on problems. Identify what is in your control and what steps you can take to fix it and if it is not in your control try to let it go. Listen to soothing music, try an adult coloring book or play a game or puzzle, get a massage, take a long bubble bath, these are great ways to distract your mind from being occupied by the cause of your stress. Also utilizing a journal is a great way to write down what’s on your mind or what’s bothering you, identify it and be able to express how you are feeling.
Practice Yoga or Meditation- These are both great ways to relax the mind and body. You can find yoga poses online to do at home or take a class locally. Also there are many different guided meditations available to help you get started.
Find a Hobby You Love-This is another great way to focus on something that makes you happy and take your mind off of the things that are causing stress in your life. Find something that you really enjoy doing and that you can look forward to also.
In conclusion stress is something that we all will face in our lives, it's important to try to deal with stress head on instead of letting it build and fester and get worse. Try to identify things that cause you stress in your life and see if you can adjust them to reduce the stress. Also practice positive thinking and affirmations to help adjust how you view things in your life, and lastly don't be afraid to seek support for dealing with stress and life in general.