Stressors, good and bad, are a part of everyday living. Extreme stressors, such as the loss of a loved one, can obviously impact our health. But the ongoing, daily stressors that we face on a regular basis also put a strain on the body’s ability to function properly. According to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are due to stress related problems. While we cannot completely avoid stress, there are effective ways to manage how much we are affected by stress.
Incorporate these simple daily habits to start living a lower-stress lifestyle.
Practice Positive Thinking
It’s not the event or circumstance that determines whether we are stressed, but how we respond to those events. It’s how we feel or think about the event that determines our stress levels. It is important to choose a positive mindset and challenge negative thoughts. It can be helpful to practice relaxation techniques while focusing on positive emotions such as appreciation and gratitude. This can be as simple as breathing deeply while you focus on things that you are grateful for. Emotions, or feelings have a powerful impact on our bodies. Practice maintaining a positive focus to reduce the effects of stress. Make sure to stay connected with friends and family and engage in activities that inspire you to smile, laugh and think positively.
Incorporate 10-30 minutes of moderate activity into your daily schedule to reduce stress. Exercise reduces the levels of our body’s stress hormones, and it increases production of chemicals that elevate mood. Medical studies show that exercise dramatically reduces depression and anxiety. Even one session of exercise can improve your mood. Find an activity that you enjoy. Include walking in nature, swimming, group fitness, biking, tennis, etc. Regularly practicing yoga can be a great way to reduce stress and restore your sense of well-being. Yoga can increase strength, flexibility and your ability to relax.
Get Quality Sleep
Sleep restores health and vitality to your mind and body. Inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night not only leaves you more energized and better prepared to deal with stress, but it also lowers your risk for many diseases. Consistently maintain regular bedtime and wake-up hours. If you have trouble relaxing, try herbal aids such as valerian, passionflower, lavender oil, lemon balm or chamomile. Avoid caffeine consumption (tea, cola, coffee, chocolate) within 4 to 8 hours of bedtime. Reduce stress and prepare for a great night’s sleep with a relaxing bedtime routine (book, meditative music, bath, relaxation technique).
Mind/Body Relaxation Techniques
The state of relaxation is linked to higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and the growth hormone which repairs cells and tissue. Relaxation is a state of rest, enjoyment and physical renewal. Harvard researchers have found that yoga, meditation, prayer and guided imagery all induce the relaxation effect. Meditation can be as simple as letting tension go as you focus on your breathing. If your mind wanders, return to your breath. Guided imagery is a type of meditation utilizing your imagination to visualize yourself in a peaceful setting where tension is washed away from your body and mind. Practice one or more of these techniques even 5 to 10 minutes a day to offset the stress response with the healing power of relaxation. Do you ever find yourself in the midst of a stressful situation? Deep breathing, where you fill your abdomen and expand your diaphragm downward, is one of the most powerful exercises you can do to quickly de-stress. Breathe long, slow and deep in a mindful-state as often as possible. As a powerful daily practice, deep breathing will advance your health and well-being. You can also unwind by enjoying a massage or practicing progressive muscle relaxation (an exercise that involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout your entire body) to relieve stress and release muscular tension.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A good diet will help prepare your body for daily stress. An unhealthy diet will only make you feel sluggish and less able to deal with life’s everyday demands. Reduce processed foods containing high sugar, saturated fat and salt. Enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables, quality fats, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein. Take time to enjoy your food and eat without rushing.
You don’t need to devote hours to stress relief every day. Just practice these simple habits on a regular basis and enjoy a more positive, fulfilling life.
-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT
Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935 Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook