#4 Reduce Stress

Simple Ways to Improve Your Health

A 5 Part Series

Does the idea of writing in a journal make you feel relaxed or does it make you cringe?

Journaling is not for everyone but there are ways to approach this type of stress reducer that might just change your mind. First, let’s talk about what stress is and how it’s affecting your body.

Stress can be like the elephant in the room, everyone has it, sometimes it’s a small elephant in a big room and sometimes it takes up the whole space. A certain amount of stress is good for you and can help you adapt and push yourself in a good way, but too much stress and chronic stress starts to have impacts on your health as well as your life.

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

Even if you have a healthy diet, exercise regularly and take supplements, if you are not managing your stress you are more at risk for developing conditions like diabetes, autoimmunity, and heart disease. You can feel these effects of stress when you are exhausted by the time you get home from work and you have no energy to play with you kids or make a good meal. Food can affect your stress level. Skipping a meal or eating a meal high in carbs can increase the stress on your body.

One very common source of stress is called chronic stress, this can leave us in the ‘fight or flight’ state for a large portion of our day.

When a stressor happens, like getting chased by a lion, we go into the ‘fight or flight’ state and our heart rate increases, the liver and tissues release stored energy and blood flow to the gut decreases. This is our body preparing us to deal with this situation. So, we fight off the lion or manage to out run it and then our bodies can return to a normal function having time to rest, this is how our bodies were designed to work.

In a real-life situation, we are faced with constant stressors. For example, in the morning you grab a quick breakfast of toast and coffee, frantically get everyone one out the door for school and you race off to work, traffic is busier than it should be and you are almost late for work. At work you are faced with a demanding workload and barely have time to think. Then a few more stressors happen throughout the day and you don’t stop to take a proper break or eat a real meal. This constant stress leaves your body in the ‘fight or flight mode most of the day and doesn’t give you enough time to rest in between. Your body doesn’t see a difference between a lion casing you or a looming “deadlion“. Chronic stress has major impacts on our health and if you take simple steps throughout the day to calm your body and focus your thoughts you will see a difference in your health.

Examples of chronic stress are:

  • Financial problems
  • Feeling socially isolated
  • Work stress including being overwhelmed by responsibilities and commuting
  • Injuries that lead to chronic pain
  • Emotional stress from loved ones; relationships or caring for a loved one
  • Major life changes; jobs, moving, etc.
  • A serious health diagnosis

Chronic stress can also come from your internal dialogue, your mindset. This includes the stress and pain that you live with everyday such as guilt, regret, pessimism, rigid thinking, perfectionism, and negative self-talk.

With these 3 simple but effective tools you can manage stress and change your response to it.

Meditate. Start with 3 minutes a day. You can seek out guided meditations, there are convenient apps like @samharrisorg, Headspace, or Calm. Or, you can just sit in a comfortable space, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose and if your mind wanders and you think of something you have to do, think “ok, I see that” and let it go, focusing on your breath again. For a great reference on how to get started with meditating check out Jessie Golden.

Writing in a journal doesn’t have to be a dear diary moment, it can be a simple as writing out your do-to list for the day, listing 5 things you are grateful for or jotting down some thoughts you had about something you don’t want to forget. This is a way to channel your thoughts and stop your mind from racing with too many thoughts that overwhelm you or keep you up at night.

Spend time outside, going for a walk and connecting with nature. Even studies have proved that spending thoughtful time in nature can be a potent form of therapy1. Getting fresh air and movement will help calm your mind and help you relax and de-stress.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Health, a 5 part series:

#1 Drink Enough Water Every Day, click here to read

#2 Add Greens To Every Meal, click here to read

#3 Make Sleep a Priority, click here to read

#5 Increase Daily Movement, click here to read

Reference: 1. Nutritional Therapy Association

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