In my previous post, we talked about what exactly stress does to your body, why it’s important to manage it, how exercise is one of the best ways to manage it and some tips to help you make that happen. Now that you’re getting regular exercise (not that I’m nagging, but you are, right?) I wanted to give you a follow up to that article, and share some more tips, tricks and pointers to help you survive your stress.
How Stress Damages Your Health
Remember that while our bodies were designed to handle a certain amount of stress, it was intended to be brief stressful interludes (like running away from a sabre tooth tiger) rather than chronic, day-in-day-out, 8 to 12 hours per day of stress. The kind of stress you may be under depletes valuable resources like potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. These deficiencies can then lead to poor functioning of specific cells, organs or systems like your nerves, muscles, thyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries, immune and cardiovascular systems.
The following health conditions have been strongly associated with stress: asthma, autoimmune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, headaches, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual irregularities, PMS, ulcerative colitis, and viral or bacterial infections.
Three Silly Stress Management Techniques
1. Dance naked in front of your pets.
2. Fill out your tax form using Roman numerals.
3. Tape pictures of your boss onto watermelons and launch them from high places.
Stress And Exercise
Exercise improves your heart function, reduces your fight-or-flight response to stress, improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and other nutrients, improves your self-esteem, and increases your strength, endurance and energy levels.
Relaxation Techniques For Stress
Meditation, gentle stretching, breathing exercises, restorative yoga and visualization techniques all induce your body’s relaxation response (the opposite of your fight-or-flight). This reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, your blood flow is diverted toward your digestive system so that it works better and your breathing, sweating and blood sugar levels are maintained in the normal range.
Diet And Stress
A healthy, whole food diet with an emphasis on leafy greens like spinach and kale, berries, eggs, nuts and seeds, fish, legumes and avocados will help replenish vital nutrients such as B5, B6, C, zinc, magnesium and potassium that are needed when you are under stress. Caffeinated food and beverages are what we often reach for when we feel stressed, but their stimulant effect can ramp up anxiety, so aim to limit your intake to one per day.
Comfort foods like cakes and cookies contribute to weight gain and associated health problems and are an additional stress both physically and emotionally. Instead, reach for some fruit to manage your sweet tooth and get important nutrients instead of empty calories.
Herbs For Stress
Soothing and relaxing herbs like chamomile, valerian, passionflower, lemon balm and oatstraw can help relieve anxiety and stress. If work feels stressful, have a cup or two of one of these herbal teas during the day to provide some calming nourishment. It’s also worth making it a daily ritual to curl up with a cup of one of these at the end of the day to kick stress to the curb and make for more relaxing sleep.
Massage Therapy And Stress
The goals of massage therapy for stress are to decrease the activity of the fight-or-flight part of your nervous system (sympathetic), increase the relaxation part of your nervous system (parasympathetic) and to increase your awareness of stress-induced muscle tension. Relaxation massage uses slow, gentle, repetitive movements and a relaxing atmosphere (soft lighting, music and warmth) to release tension. Essential oils of lavender, chamomile, bergamot, neroli and rose can also be incorporated into massage oil to increase the calming effect.
Other Important De‐Stressors
Humor – True fact: Did you know that journalist Norman Cousins attributed his recovery from reactive arthritis to belly laughter? He found that 10 minutes of belly laughter afforded him 2 hours of pain relief.
Friends/Family/Social Support – As much as you may feel that your burdens are yours to deal with, there is always someone who can lend an ear or provide a shoulder to cry on. A problem that may seem overwhelming to you might have an obvious solution to someone else, especially someone who isn’t emotionally involved in the situation. Talk it over with a loved one or a professional. Venting is healthy, bottling up is not.
Pets – True fact: Did you know that research shows your stress measures (heart rate and blood pressure) are higher when you are with your spouse and lower when you are with your dog?
Stress can have a massive impact upon your overall health and happiness, but with the tips and tricks included in this post, you should be able to better manage your stress the easy way. Get silly, keep exercising, make time to relax, eat a great diet and enjoy regular massages so you always feel at your absolute best.