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Stress Management for Optimal Health

December 20, 2021

It’s crunch time as they say! So much to do, so little time.  As our lists grow, the stress and anxiety heighten, and we tend to enter fight or flight mode more often than we would like.  We find ourselves reacting to every little thing and this acute stress response is not just reserved for the holidays.  The fight or flight response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to stay and deal with a threat or run away to safety.  This physiological and psychological response began with our ancient ancestors when threats to survival in their environment were a part of daily life.

Today we don’t face imminent danger of bear or lion attacks on a regular basis, but our mind and body have learned to react to stress as if we did.   In response to acute stress,(an argument with a family member, a missed flight, work deadlines etc.) the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated by the release of hormones which stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline.

The physiological response may result in an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate. It can take 20-60 minutes for your body to return to its normal levels.  This fight or flight response can help us perform and prepare for action in actual pressure situations.  We are at an increased arousal and awareness level and are more capable of springing into action.  The issue arises when we find ourselves in a chronic state of stress.

Chronic stress is a consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time.  As humans we are wired to face challenges, solve problems and/or reach out to someone for support.  We are meant to respond to stress and remove it.  However, life has become more complex and many situations, especially in today’s world don’t have easy answers.  

We can’t avoid stress; it is a part of our fabric, our journey, our lives.  However, we can learn to manage it, so it doesn’t take hold, become chronic and impact our overall health and longevity. (If you believe you are in a chronic stress situation you should seek the support of a medical professional).   

Here are some Stress Management techniques to try out.  We are all different so what works for your spouse, or your friend may not be best for you. Be patient and take the time to find out how to best find your center.

1)   Regular and consistent Exercise:  probably one of the best ways to combat stress.  People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety. Moderate       exercise lowers your stress hormones and releases those feel-good endorphins.  Exercise also helps improve sleep.  Poor sleep can rev up anxiety and stress.       Exercise boosts confidence and overall well-being.  Find an exercise routine you enjoy.

2)   Meditation/Mindfulness:  Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace, and balance.  During meditation you focus your attention and reduce the stream of        thoughts that tend to crowd our minds.  There are many types of meditation practices, it is best to experiment and find the one that best suits you.  A certified        meditation instructor can help guide you.

3)   Consider supplements:  Several supplements are supportive of stress and anxiety reduction.  Omega 3’s can help reduce anxiety, Ashwagandha has been shown to        effectively reduce stress,Green Tea may lower stress by increasing serotonin levels.

4)   Analyze your caffeine intake: Caffeine is a stimulant and as such high doses can increase anxiety, take note of your personal reaction, and maybe consider cutting        back if it is an issue.

5)   Connect: social support from family and friends can help you get through stressful times.

6)   Laugh, dance, and sing as if no one is watching!Laughter can boost your mood and your immune system.  

7)   Just say NO! Don’t take on more than you can handle or then you should handle.  Give yourself space for self-care, exercise, good nutrition, and a good night’s sleep.       You will show up as the best version of yourself when you honor your needs for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

8)   Take a yoga class: Yoga supports stress relief by focusing on the mind, breath, and body connection.  Some studies show that yoga can enhance mood and be as        effective as antidepressant medications.  Yoga may help lower cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate.

9)   Stop procrastinating: Always feeling behind the8-ball can leave us feeling frazzled, reactive, and edgy.  Create daily to-do lists, delegate, and prioritize must-dos.         Simply writing down your tasks can help you feel more in control and reduce the thought circus.

10) Just breathe: When you feel the stress response coming on, take a moment and just breathe.  Breathe in for four, hold for four, release for four and hold for four. Do        this for 1 minute or 5 and calmly center yourself instantly.

Chronic stress can take a toll on your overall health, causing a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being.  It may cause sleep disorders, stress eating, digestive issues, mental health concerns, chronic pain, and inflammation and more.  In your quest for optimal health and longevity it is critical to address the factors of stress in your life and to create a stress management protocol that works best for you.

 

 

 

 

 

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