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Body Signals: How To Manage Stress

Have you ever tried to decrease the amount of stress in your day-to-day routine? Have you been successful in doing so? Well…

“It’s up to you today to start making healthy choices. Not choices that are just healthy for your body, but healthy for your mind.” ~ Happy Live 360

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Trying to decrease or eliminate stress is not entirely plausible or possible. Instead of stressing about removing stress, we should focus on ways to manage the amount of stress we deal with. In this blog, we will discuss simple habits to manage chronic stress so that the negative impact stress has on our health can be minimized.

1. Identify what you are feeling.

The first step to coping with and managing chronic stress is to identify your feelings. Our minds race with many different thoughts and feelings: Are you overwhelmed? Anxious? Sad? Angry? Feeling pain? Confused? If so, many of these are associated with chronic stress. These thoughts and feelings can make it difficult to relax and, in turn, have a direct correlation to the negative health effects associated with chronic stress. If you are experiencing any of these thoughts or feelings, you are more than likely experiencing chronic stress. It is helpful if you can identify the connection between feeling tired or ill, and the pressures you are faced with, while also trying to look out for physical warnings (body signals) such as tense muscles, over-tiredness, headaches, or migraines.

2. Identify the cause.

The next step is trying to identify what the underlying cause is. This will help you make sense of what you are experiencing and why. If possible, sort the possible reasons for your stress into three categories: 1) those with a practical solution, 2) those that will get better given time and, 3) those you cannot do anything about. Try to release the worry of those in the second and third groups and with a deep breath…and let them go.

3. Review your lifestyle.

As with most health concerns in society, the chronic stress you deal with is more than likely tied to the way you live your life. Could you be taking on too much? Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else? Can you do things in a more leisurely way? To act on the answers to these questions, you may need to prioritize things you are trying to achieve and re-organize your life. This will help to release pressure that can come from trying to do everything at once.

Remember, it is okay to rest, and relax, and take care of yourself. In saying this, here are some lifestyle changes that can be made to protect your health from being damaged by chronic stress:

  • Eat Healthy – there is growing evidence that supports how food affects our mood. Eating healthier improves overall body function and improves mood! Protect your feelings of well being by ensuring your diet provides adequate amounts of brain nutrients like Omega-3s, Antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E), Vitamin B-12, Folate and of course water.
  • Be aware of smoking and alcohol consumption – try not to or reduce the amount you smoke or drink alcohol. Even though tension seems to fade, the effects of alcohol and smoking increase the amount of stress hormones in our blood, leading to even worse effects of chronic stress on our health.
  • Exercise!!! – physical activity is highly effective in relieving stress. Even just going out and getting some fresh air and taking a walk can be an effective way of managing stress and increasing physical activity.
  • Take time out – relax. Strike the balance between responsibility to others, and responsibility to yourself. Reducing stress starts with taking care of yourself. It is okay to prioritize self-care.
  • Be mindful – mindfulness is a mind-body approach that involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in order to better manage difficult situations and make wise decisions. Meditation is a great way to get in touch with your thoughts. Take a 20-minute break each day and search for meditation videos on YouTube or use an app on your phone. Simply just sitting still outside or in your favorite chair for 20 minutes can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety and worry. Research has suggested that daily meditation reduces the effects of stress and poor concentration.
  • Get some restful sleep – struggling to sleep is a common problem related to stress. Chronic stress leads to poor sleep and poor sleep leads to chronic stress. It is a negative cycle. Try getting into a bedtime routine. Make an herbal tea, chamomile and lavender can be great at relaxing the body and slowing down your racing mind. Be sure to decrease screen time an hour before bed to improve melatonin production and try to get at least 7 hours per night.
  • Do not be too hard on yourself – having a bad day is universal human experience. Stress is unavoidable. Feeling anxious or worried is normal. If you stumble or feel you have failed, do not beat yourself up. Act as if you are your own best friend. Support yourself and take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself.

If you are feeling the effects of chronic stress it is always important to have someone to talk to. Counselors and therapists are trained at helping people deal with unavoidable stress. Do not let chronic stress decrease your health and quality of life. Expressing your feelings and thoughts is healthy, repressing them is not and will only lead to worse problems in the future.

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