Stress is brought up in conversations everyday, I hear it talked about on the radio and on TV, we talk about it with our friends and families, and I would venture to say that nearly 80% of my patients bring it up every treatment. Stress is often to blame when you just aren’t feeling quiet right. You may be exhausted, yet unable to sleep or jittery.
It has become such a large part of our society it has almost become normal to be stressed. And a little stress is ok, it gets us up and moving and it gets us motivated. But stress becomes harmful to the mind and body when it is constant and relentless. You could exercise every day and eat a healthy diet, but stress can still make you at risk for degenerative conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and hypothyroidism.
Yet, with how prevalent stress is in our everyday lives, most are doing nothing to reduce it or the harmful effects that comes with it! Why? Because it is HARD! I get it! This is something I struggle with myself. I would rather walk more or change my diet then really get to the root of stress and what it has done to my mind and body. But, since starting Denver Mind Body Essence I have learned I can’t do that anymore, for me to be the best practitioner, I have to be the best me. And that means a less stressed me!
STRESS BY DEFINITION:
So what exactly is stress? To look at it simplistically it is when your body is out of balance or homeostasis. When this happens your body gets stuck in its sympathetic state. This is the fight and flight state, opposite of the parasympathetic state of rest and digest. The sympathetic state can be thought of as the state your body goes in when you are endanger, such as when a tiger is chasing you. Things you don’t need to use when a tiger is casing you such as your digestion stops working and everything you need to run faster and escape goes into hyperactive mode.
The opposite state, parasympathetic state is when we are able to rest and take in all the nutrients from our food. Our digestion functions smoothly and or immunity is strong. During the sympathetic state the body isn’t focused on protecting itself from diseases which is why you are more at risk.
Have you heard of adrenal fatigue? Unfortunately it has become more and more common. The adrenals secrete our hormones that regulate ore stress response: cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. There are specific things that start to affect the adrenals, such as too full schedules, finance problems, arguments with friends or family, losing a job, getting stuck in traffic and many other modern day challenges.
Symptoms of adrenal stress include:
-fatigue, headaches, decreased immunity, difficulty with sleep, mood changes, sugar/caffeine cravings, eating to relieve fatigue, dizziness, and digestive issues are just to name a few.
SO WHAT NOW? HOW TO WE MANAGE OUR STRESS?
Ok, now to the good stuff! How do we reduce the impact of stress on our bodies and mind! The first step is to reduce or avoid the unnecessary stress of life. This seems like one of the DUH! steps but most of us need help on how to achieve this.
1. Avoid people or situations that stress you out: it is not always possible to avoid them entirely but limit the time you spend with them
2. Prioritize your to do list: I know you may say but everything on there is important, ok but does everything NEED to get done today? Take some time and prioritize what is important to you for today, and let the others move to tomorrow, and don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t get completed, just move it to tomorrow.
3. Don’t waste your time or energy on pointless arguments: you know the ones I am talking about. There are times when it is easier to let it go then argue with someone who will never try to understand your point of view, don’t work yourself up over these people
4. Ant this brings me to Set Boundaries: when asked to do something before saying yes ask yourself will this recharge me or drain me. It’s ok to say NO to the drain me opportunityes. Listen to your body and know your limits to avoid that burn out feeling
The second step is to have strategies in place for the unavoidable type of stress:
1. Lower your standards: this goes back to the to do list, it is ok if you don’t get everything done! Many of us strive for perfection, but sometimes good has to be good enough. Focus on all of the progress you have made instead!
2. Be grateful: focus on what you do have and it can totally change your perspective
3. Protect your energy: this is related to setting boundaries and avoiding stressful people and situations. Instead seek out people and experiences that boost your energy instead of draw from it
4. Reframe situations: sometimes just looking at a situation different is all we need to reduce or stress about it. Being stuck in traffic can be infuriating, I know I have been there when a 20 minute drive takes an hour. But, instead of getting angry, use this time to blast and sing to your favorite song, reflect and contemplate, or call your friends and family. It can force you to make time for things you enjoy!
5. And last, ADD in more things that make you happy! If you have to schedule it in! Have Even if it just taking a few minutes to dance to a song, watch the sunset or cook your favorite meal. Doing what you love is the best defense against stress and can immediately move your body into the parasympathetic mode!
JUST A LITTLE EXTRA STRESS MANAGEMENT:
1. BREATHING PRACTICE:
The number one thing that I have added into my day to help destress myself is treating exercises! The one that calls to me the most is circular breathing, and is a technique I often teach to my patients. To start you inhale through your nose to the count of 4, then you cod your breath for a count of 4, next you breathe out all the air through your mouth to the count of four, and last you hold your breath for a count of four. That was one set, typically I do between 10-20 sets when I need to manage my stress. Relaxation will happen quickly usually by the third set and after each set will become easier to do, and will flow in a circular pattern.
If you have read any of my other blogs you know acupuncture is great for treating stress and anxiety, it can not only reduce stress, but it can actually reverse the effects of stress! It also is able to put the body into the parasympathetic state by releasing oxytocin. Acupuncture can also treat the symptoms that are cause by stress such as high blood pressure, insomnia, and digestive issues!
Meditation helps make us present in our lives, and face issues that we may have pushed down. It puts us into a relaxed state in which we can witness our own thoughts and feeling. I often will use guided meditations and there are many apps to help, such as Headspace and Relax&SleepWell