The world is a stressful place these days, and we are all trying to deal with it the best we can. At the top of the list is this surging pandemic, and everything that goes with it. Social distancing itself is stressful as people want to interact with other people. Many of my patients have been telling me that their stress levels are through the roof, and I have noticed extra tension and stiffness in my patients since this pandemic started. With winter approaching and the holidays coming the overall stress level seems to be increasing.
I thought this month it might be helpful to post a blog with some simple ways to reduce stress. It might surprise you to learn that biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress.
Symptoms of stress existed long before Selye, but his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions cope with stress. After doing a little searching I have compiled a list of 10 of the top ways to relieve stress.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try taking a break and listening to relaxing music. Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
Most stress experts recommend classical music, but if classical really isn’t your thing, try listening to ocean or nature sounds, as they have similar relaxing effects to music.
When you’re feeling stressed, take a break to call a friend and talk about your problems. Good relationships with friends and loved ones are important to any healthy lifestyle.
They’re especially important when you’re under a lot of stress. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.
Sometimes calling a friend is not an option. If this is the case, talking calmly to yourself can be the next best thing.
Don’t worry about seeming crazy, just tell yourself why you’re stressed out, what you have to do to complete the task at hand, and most importantly, that everything will be okay.
Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. When we’re overwhelmed, we often forget to eat well and resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up.
Try to avoid sugary snacks and plan ahead. Fruits and vegetables are always good, and fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. Fish really is brain food.
Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy.
Here is a previous blog I wrote specifically about the health benefits of laughter. https://performancehealthcenter.com/2016/12/laughter-is-the-best-medicine/
A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It may also cause your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive.
Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Most of the tips suggested provide immediate relief, but there are also many lifestyle changes that can be more effective in the long run. The concept of “mindfulness” is a large part of meditative and somatic approaches to mental health and has become popular recently.
From yoga and tai chi to meditation and Pilates, these systems of mindfulness incorporate physical and mental exercises that prevent stress from becoming a problem. Try joining a class, even remotely.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean power lifting at the gym or training for a triathlon. A short walk around the block or simply standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. This is especially true if your work requires you to sit at a monitor for hours on end. Make sure to get up and move every 20 minutes or so.
Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.
Everyone knows stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only gets worse with time.
Try your best to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Turn the TV off earlier, dim the lights, and give yourself time to relax before going to bed. It may be the most effective stress buster on this list.
The advice “take a deep breath” may seem like a cliché, but it holds true when it comes to stress. For centuries, Buddhist monks have been conscious of deliberate breathing during meditation.
For an easy three- to five-minute exercise, sit up in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and hands on top of your knees. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest.
While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Too much untreated stress can cause potentially serious physical and mental health problems.
The good news is that in many cases, stress is manageable. Use these tips to help deal with this stressful time we have right now. Make sure to take good care of yourself; eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and maintain your regular chiropractic treatments. Next month I will write a blog on how chiropractic treatments can help reduce stress on your body and mind.
If you have any questions about this blog or about your health in general you can contact me at: email@example.com