When we think of stress, most people will think of the stress that comes from having too much to do, in too little time, which seems to happen during holiday season. If we don’t manage our stress and we aren’t mindful of our consumption of all the delicious holiday treats, we will gain weight, which leads to guilt and negative thinking. These tips are focused on stress management tips that you can use year round, which will help you maintain your body’s natural weight.
Did you know that there are several categories of stress and that some form of stress is actually healthy? Some categories of stress have an effect on our bodies are: emotional/mental, chemical, physical, electromagnetic, and nutritional/biological stresses.
Emotional - Taking on more responsibility than you can handle at work or at home by over-scheduling yourself and your family.
Chemical - Being exposed to pollutants and consuming chemicals. For example, breathing in chemicals from cleaning products and eating foods that are sprayed heavily with pesticides. Consuming chemicals in beverages (such as brominated vegetable oil), or consuming beverages using plastic drink wear lined with BPA, such as canned foods or coffee cups/lids used at businesses such as Starbucks.
Physical - Over-exercising or not exercising enough, poor posture and inadequate breathing patterns.
Electromagnetic – Too much exposure to sun, radiation, extremely low frequently (ELF) pollution emitted by electronic devices such as electric blankets, computers, cell phones, especially when wearing a cell phone on your body.
Nutritional/biological – Eating too much or too little and eating the wrong foods for your body. Focusing our diet on processed foods with low nutrient density vs. eating foods that provide our bodies with the nutrients it needs to function well. Consuming foods that contain toxic pesticides, colorings, thickeners, or emulsifiers. Eating too much sugar. Nutrient deficiencies (such as low vitamin D, B12, Magnesium), food sensitivities and allergies that can impact your brain health (for example, an egg, grain/gluten, or dairy sensitivity that can cause brain fog, fatigue, headaches, etc).
According to the American Psychological Association, there are three types of stress. 1. acute stress, 2. episodic acute stress, and 3. chronic stress. For purposes of this article, we are going to focus on recognizing acute stress so that it doesn’t turn into chronic stress. When we are chronically stressed, we stop recognizing the symptoms because we are used to feeling this way. Chronic stress generally will lead to disease and it’s a matter of when, not IF.
Many of us have stress and it is completely normal and both treatable and manageable. Symptoms of acute stress fall into three categories: Physical, behavioral, and psychological. Notice that any of the stressors above can lead to hundreds of symptoms, including those listed below. Let’s see if you recognize any of these common symptoms.
Physical: muscle aches, digestive issues, sleep issues, tension headaches, high blood pressure, weight gain/loss etc.
Psychological: anger, irritability, depression, anxiousness, negative thinking, indecisiveness, etc.
HOW TO MANAGE STRESS
Identify your primary stressors. Are you overscheduled? Always running late to work? Exercising too much? Not getting enough sleep? Eating a lot of processed foods? Taking care of a parent? Not enough time to yourself? In a job you don’t enjoy? Pick the biggest concerns that are causing the most stress and focus on those. On the other hand, making really small habit changes over time can also work if tackling the biggest issue is too overwhelming.
Make a plan. Start looking at how you can change the things that are causing stress. Remember for most of the stress that we experience, we have the power to make positive changes. Using the examples in #1. Start looking at how you can manage time better by saying “No” to things that are not as meaningful to you. Get to bed earlier. Prepare your meals for the week ahead on the weekend so you can grab and go. Look for a new job.
Eat & drink right. Start looking at small changes you can make to nourish your body and ensure you hydrate well with plain water. When eating or drinking processed, chemical laden foods/drinks on a daily basis that stress your body, you will not effectively be able to replace the stress hormones you are using on a daily basis and eating the wrong foods can impair our ability to think and function well. Suggestions to consider: replace the daily consumption of sugary beverages with water; eat organic and local whenever possible; focus on foods found in the perimeter of the grocery store; start looking at foods that will make you healthier and focus on those that grow from the ground or come from an animal/fish source rather than those that are processed in a factory.
Movement & exercise. Consider activities you enjoy and focus on finding activities that are right for you. For example, if you like dancing, consider Zumba. The key to maintaining a healthy exercise routine is to find something you enjoy that helps you accomplish your goals, otherwise there is a good chance you won’t stick with it. Walking is an excellent form of exercise that can clear your mind and help balance your hormones. Consider scheduling with an athletic trainer so that you can develop a good workout schedule using exercises designed to balance and strengthen your muscles and help you move better with less injury. If you have high levels of stress, some forms of chronic exercise may not be the best for your body. You may want to consider incorporating yoga, tai chi, or meditation into your routine.
Mental exercise. The power of the mind is incredible and the effects of positive thinking is no exception. Harmonize your thoughts and actions with your goals in order to reduce stress. Realize that negative thoughts regarding things we don’t have the power to change (traffic for example), can create an undue stress response on our bodies. Remember, you have the POWER to change your destiny and positive thinking will help you accomplish your goals. Consider a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, record in a journal the things you are grateful for.
SOME ADDITIONAL TECHNIQUES TO HELP REDUCE STRESS:
Tapping. Modern psychology and Chinese acupressure form the basis of tapping. To learn more, look at The Tapping Solution, by Nick Ortner.
Meditate. Meditating even for only 5 minutes per day (20 minutes is ideal), has been shown to have profound effects on the body. There are many phone apps you can use or you can get a CD from the library.
Sleep. Getting adequate sleep allows our body to repair from a psychological and physical standpoint. Aim for getting about 8 hours per sleep per night. Getting into a regular sleep schedule (no later than 10:30p for most) may take time, but making this change can have profound effects on the body.
Essential Oils. Essential oils such as peppermint oil, lavender oil, etc have shown to help reduce headaches, tension, etc.
Heat / Sauna therapy. Taking a hot bath for about 15-20 minutes with Epsom salt and essential oils or using a sauna to help relax the body and detoxify. Using a sauna routinely can do wonders for your health.
Breathing. Deep, full diaphragmatic breaths, rather than short, shallow breaths, can have a profound response on how we feel. When you find yourself anxious, take five deep breaths. There are phone apps as well that can help with breathing.
Acupuncture, massage, Reiki, spa treatments. Great for relation.
Spend time in nature. Whether it is hiking in the woods, strolling along the lake, or laying under trees, reconnecting with nature is energetic and relaxing.
Consider working with a counselor, therapist, health/wellness coach, nutritionist, etc. Never be afraid to seek help. There are many great resources out there that specialize in helping people find balance in their life so that they can reduce stress and live their dream. There are many professions that work to help restore health using a full body approach.
How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy, Paul Chek