02/18/2016 by GOLDI JACQUES-MAYNES
Stress Less for Better Health
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Demanding jobs, loved ones that need our attention, traffic, overly packed schedules — stress really can’t be avoided. The truth is, stress will always be here. Keeping stress at a moderate or tolerable level at times can seem impossible.
The only real solution to stress is learning to avoid it or react positively to it.
We can’t always keep stress away, but we can understand how stress works. As a molecular biologist and chiropractor, I see stress as coming from physical, emotional, and chemical inputs.
Physical stress can be traumatic or chronic.
Physical stress doesn’t always come from traumatic incidents, like car wrecks or sports injuries. It can also come from chronic and repetitive motions. Text Neck, poor posture at your computer, and long commutes all cause physical stress.
Our patients come in with pain from multiple sources of physical trauma. It could be whiplash from crashing their bike on their commute. Ankle sprains from trail running can also be a cause. We commonly see postural fatigue and muscle tension across the upper back and lower neck from sitting at a desk all day.
Emotional stress can be good or bad.
Emotional stress can be good, like getting a new job, having a wedding, or having a new baby. Emotional stress can also can be negative, like pleasing a mean boss or managing an insolent teenager. The folks we treat come in regularly with symptoms from this type of stress.
Chemical stress comes from what we ingest.
Chemical stress comes from food, drinks, and medications. The holidays in particular are a time when folks turn to chemical stressors, like alcohol and unhealthy food.
We are a caffeinated society that loves its fast, processed, and convenient foods. Unfortunately, they full of chemicals and preservatives that stress our digestive system and don’t fuel our body properly.
The best response to stress is self-care.
While you cannot always control what happens to you, you CAN control how well you take care of yourself. Choosing to care for yourself better equips you to handle stress. To get you started, I've put together a list of 10 ways you can reduce the negative effects of stress. I challenge you to pick 3 to add to your lifestyle.
10 basic self-care tips for stress reduction
Deep sleep and dream states recharge our bodies and affect our ability to be productive. It’s recommended that most folks get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. There are a few things you can do to help you get to sleep at night. The first is to unplug. That’s right, put your smartphone in the other room and turn off your television. Read, journal, or just talk with your partner before bed. There are herbal remedies, aromatherapies, and teas that can help promote sleep and relaxation as well. We carry some natural sleep aids in our clinic. Reach out to ask us about some that may help you.
First thing when you wake up, drink a tall glass of water. Many people like to add half a lemon. While other drinks do help keep you hydrated, they often contain sugar, which can lead to physical stress. Clean, pure water is always best.
A poor diet can actually make you more vulnerable to stress. Choose fresh wholesome foods that don’t come from boxes or bags. When we get busy, we're tempted to eat convenient, highly processed foods. Plan ahead and prep your healthy snacks so they are easily available when you need a quick bite.
Regular exercise provides many health benefits, including improving your heart health, and elevating your mood. If you don’t currently exercise, try something new or rediscover something you used to enjoy. Some ideas are yoga, walking, hiking, cycling, CrossFit, Pilates, and gardening.
Much of what you experience in life can feel more or less stressful depending on your point of view. Smiling gives you a positive mental attitude, which helps spread love and joy to those around you. Make a point to identify and change your negative thought patterns, and smile!
6. Maintain social support.
Find a tribe to keep you going — friends, co-workers, work-out buddies, etc. Friends can pick you up when you’re sad, provide insights, and help you have fun. There are so many great communities to explore — sports groups, hobby groups, parenting groups to name a few. You could also just put on your shoes and go for a walk on the beach with a good friend.
7. Journal to process your emotions.
Keeping things bottled up can lead to toxic stress. Writing feelings and experiences down helps prevent emotional explosions. Keep a journal by your nightstand and write down ideas and thoughts that keep you awake. This also helps with tip number 1 — sleep!
8. Practice self-care.
Self-care is not selfish! Don't overlook the importance of pampering yourself. It feels good to feel good. Schedule a massage once a month, get adjusted every two weeks, or get a pedicure or facial to pamper yourself. If money is a limiting factor, take a hot bath or shower and feel the water wash the tension away. Spend 20 minutes a day doing something for yourself, and pretty soon you’ll be more chill and relaxed.
9. Take 10-minutes of quiet time.
Taking 10 minutes to breathe, meditate, or pray will give you mental clarity. Taking five deep belly breaths can help calm you in a stressful situation. Place your hand on your belly. Breath in through your nose and try to lift your hand away from your spine while expanding your abdomen. This breathing technique can be an effective treatment for anxiety, and may also help to boost energy and stamina.
10. Create a Stop-Doing list.
Stop doing the things that stress you out. Learn to say NO. Review your calendar or journal, looking for the things and people that stress you out. Once you identify your triggers, try to get rid of a few of those responsibilities or activities. You’ll be amazed how wonderful it feels to say NO to those stressful situations.
Are you in pain right now?
If you find yourself having neck pain, back pain, or headaches from stress, we can help you find relief. Make an online appointment to both treat your symptoms immediately and identify the sources of your stress. From there, we'll make a plan so that you can stress less and live more.