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Dealing with Stress

Stress: Your response to an event or situation that calls for a change, threatens the order or safety of your life, or otherwise places an unusual demand on your physical, mental and emotional resources.

What does stress feel like in the moment?

  • Adrenaline starts pumping
  • Breathing quickens
  • Heart starts pounding
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Blood vessels constrict
  • Blood rushes to the muscles

Physical Symptoms of Stress

  • Insomnia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Headache
  • Grinding teeth
  • Muscle tics
  • Stomach aches
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Back aches
  • Neck pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin problems such as hives
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced sexual pleasure

Emotional & Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Over eating
  • Not eating
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Difficulty concentrating Impaired short-term memory
  • Decrease in productivity
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Short temper or anger
  • Sadness, anxiety, or depression
  • Isolation from positive relationships
  • Unproductive worry

Type of Stressors

  1. Physical: increase your body’s need for energy; insufficient energy leads to sore muscles, fatigue, and worsening of disease/illness
  2. Mental & Emotional: include both good and bad events; includes emotional events like joy, surprise, worry, and frustration.
  3. Environmental: includes both good and bad exposure; sunshine is a stressor to the skin causing it to react, second hand smoke is a stressor causing damage you did not choose, and loud noises cause stress reactions whether they are kids playing or fire engines roaring.

Stress and Wellness

To protect your health, stress should be kept to a minimum and other precautions should also be taken. Mind and body affect and feed on one another, and stress strongly affects your overall physical wellness. Long-term stress can bring about significant changes in your body, and even extreme, short-term stress can temporarily decrease overall health. To increase your odds of wellness here are some important steps you can take:

  1. Practice Stress Management Techniques. Certain techniques, like journaling, yoga and even laughter have all been found to increase immunity. Practicing stress-reducing activities, can keep your body from going into chronic stress mode, maintaining increased health and wellness.
  2. Take Care of Your Body. Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly to keep your body running smoothly. Taking better care of your body will keep it functioning properly and increase your ability to fight off the latest bug that’s being passed around.
  3. Maintain a Supportive Network. Social support boosts immunity and helps you manage stress in your life, both of which will keep you healthier. By keeping several healthy relationships in your life, you’ll have friends to help you through the difficult times and increase your enjoyment of the good times, helping everyone stay healthy and enjoy life more.
  4. Stay Organized and Maintain Balance in Your Life. Keep your home uncluttered. Become proficient at saying no to requests that aren’t in line with your priorities. Staying organized and balanced will help you keep from overtaxing yourself, and can help reduce the level of stress you experience in your life, helping you stay healthier in the long run.

Reducing and Relieving Stress

Each of us can live healthier- if we make a concentrated effort to invest in our health by learning to identify bad stress and choosing healthy strategies to overcome a lot of the negative side effects. Stress management can really promote better health.

What are some of the benefits of stress reduction?

  • Better immune function
  • Less illnesses and physical complaints
  • More energy
  • More focused, more positive
  • Sleeping better
  • Better digestion
  • Calmer mood
  • Feeling more relaxed

Stress Reduction Techniques

Identify Your Stressors: make a list of all the things that cause even some stress in your life. Identifying them helps you to recognize them to effectively deal with them. Don’t forget to analyze food and habit stressors like eating junk food, drinking, and smoking.

Sort Your Stressors: categorize them by importance to determine if they are worthy of your concern or ‘stress’ and what actions you may need to take to reduce the stress being caused.

  1. Important and changeable: these are managed by taking action to change the situation and reduce the stress associated with it.
  2. Important and unchangeable: these can feel hopeless when they are cannot be changed yet are a part of everyday life. Best dealt with by changing the way you think about it. Reassess and reclassify the stressor to make it easier to deal with.
  3. Unimportant and changeable: if it’s really not important, not a part of your daily life, then let it go. If it is important and can be controlled the do it. Solving these smaller problems helps you build confidence and skills for larger problems.
  4. Unimportant and unchangeable: these are not worth your stress, so the best suggestion is to ignore them. Do not give them your attention or energy and they will not cause you stress.

Use Problem Solving: determine what the stressor is and figure out ways to alleviate the causes by determining solutions to the problems and changing the situation. Evaluate the results of your actions for future use with other stressors.

Be Present: Stop and slow down. Take 5 minutes to focus intently on your activity, observing the behavior with awareness. Notice how the air feels on your face as your walking, enjoy the taste of the food you are eating, or marvel at the beauty of the sunrise. Spending time in the moment focused on your senses allows time for stress to leave your body.

Reach Out: Having a good support system of friends and family provides outlets for pent up stress.  Talking to others is a great way to manage whatever is causing you stress.

Tune In to Your Body: Pay attention to how it feels, not analyzing or trying to change anything, but simply taking stock of how the body is functioning.  The more you pay attention to your body the fewer surprises you will have when you visit the doctor.  You will also begin to learn the best ways to treat yourself with minor ailments, you will feel more in control of your health, and you will recover faster.

Eat Real Food: nutrient rich foods like whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and fresh meats provide the nutrients needed by the body to fight damage caused by stress hormones and reduce toxin build-up and cellular oxidation that occurs with stress.

Decompress: Sitting up straight, wrap a warm heat wrap, blanket, or neck pillow around your shoulders or neck. The close your eyes and allow your face, neck, shoulders, and back relax and go slack, your mouth may even hang open.  Breathing softly and calmly, feeling the tension melt away as your muscles relax.

Laugh Out Loud:  A good belly laugh not only lightens the mental load it also lowers cortisol levels and increases endorphin levels.  Cortisol is the stress hormone that when in excess causes weight gain and inflammation throughout the body.  Endorphins are the feel-good hormones that uplift your mood and calm the nervous system.

Be Grateful: Keep a grateful journal by your bed, at work, or in your purse to help you remember all the things that are good in your life.  Writing in it everything or some things that you consider being good experiences or celebrated accomplishments.  That way when things look bleak you can go back through it and remember the good things.  Being grateful for your blessings works to cancel out negative thoughts and worries.

Scheduling Your Day: The best way to ensure that everything that is supposed to get done each day, gets done each day, is to create a schedule of daily activities and follow it every day.  Planned activities and doctor’s appointments should be worked into your schedule instead of working your schedule around them. This ensures you know what to expect each day and that you can feel confident in being able to get it all done.

Eat Something: When you get an anxiety attack, it may mean your blood sugar is dropping. The best thing to do is to have a quick sustaining snack, like a handful of walnuts, or a piece of dark chocolate, along with a glass of water or a nice cup of hot tea. People eat things like eggs, which are a satiating and filling protein, and are nature’s top source of choline. Low levels of choline are associated with increased anxiety.

Meditation: A few minutes of practice each day can help ease anxiety and make you more resilient to stress. It’s not difficult but it takes practice.  You must train yourself to clear your mind and keep it clear for a period of time in order to focus on one thing, giving the mind a break from everyday thoughts, hopes, worries, and dreams.

Deep Breathing: 5-minute break from a stressful activity or occurrence. Stop what you are doing and sit up straight with chin parallel to the floor.  Breathing slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Stop Catastrophizing. When you’re attacked by anxiety, it’s easy to get into a mindset known as “catastrophic thinking” or “catastrophizing.” Instead, take a few deep breaths, walk around the block, and consider the real probability that this problem will really spin out into catastrophe.

Sauna or Steam Bath: Ever wonder why you feel so relaxed after a spell in the sauna or a steam room? Sensations of warmth may alter neural circuits that control mood, including those that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. Warming up may be one of the ways that exercise—not to mention curling up by a fire with a cozy cup of tea—boosts mood. 

Forest Bath. You and I know it as a walk in the woods. The forest bathers had lower stress hormone levels after their walk than they did after a comparable walk in an urban area.

Crank Up the Tunes: Listening to soothing music, such as nature sounds or classical tunes, allow the mind to focus on individual instruments or sounds and causes a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety.  Another good way to blow off some steam is to play rocking or upbeat tunes and sing along with them at the top of your lungs.

Get Moving: All forms of exercise, from yoga to walking, can ease depression and anxiety, by increasing the amount of endorphins released by the brain.  Exercise does not have to be strenuous to beneficial, 21 minutes is all it takes.

Reach for Soothing Scents: To calm nerves in an instant, try inhaling aromas of bergamot, lavender, or peppermint essential oils. Place a drop on your wrist or handkerchief to smell as you work, have an air diffuser available to permeate the room with aroma, or drop one drop onto an unscented candle to disperse the aroma throughout the room.

Take a Warm Bath: Relaxing in a warm bath with or without scented bath salts or oils.  Light a couple candles or use a night light to create a dim and relaxed atmosphere then lay in the tub and relax, allowing the water to wash away your tension.  As you drain the tub imagine all of your stress going down the drain with the dirty water.

Visualize Peacefulness: Take a few minutes to imagine your dream vacation or your perfect escape: Imagine being there, feeling the breeze on your face or the sand under your feet.  Imagine you are there in your perfect place enjoying the beauty of it.  Sit in your peaceful place for time forgetting your worries.

Utilize Crystal Energy: Turquoise colored crystals have a wide variety of uses. They temper excesses, restore calm after a storm, relieve stress, neutralize extremes, and provide a counter to tendencies to fly off in a single direction. They help you overcome conflict, and deal with rage. They moderate aggressiveness and help you deal with cruelty. The turquoise colored crystals help you relax, rewind, and build tolerance. When you seek to reestablish your equilibrium, and get your emotions under control, use a turquoise crystal.