6 Healthy Ways to Deal with Stress
Believe it or not, but stress is an important part of our lives and survival. The body manages this stress and responds accordingly. However, manageable stress is much different from chronic stress. When it is chronic it affects your brain health, your emotions, hormone production, mobility and can even weaken the immune system. The result is an increase chance of developing chronic disease.
It goes without saying that it is essential to effectively manage chronic stress and avoid it as much as possible for overall health.
What is the Stress Response?
Before going into management of stress, we have to understand what exactly is going on in the first place. The stress response is the way your body reacts to a threat or trigger. This could be danger, uncertainty, work deadline or any number of other things.
Lets break down the normal stress response:
- Through your senses, you perceive a stress. This information is sent to the brain (specifically the amygdala).
- From there, the distress signal is sent to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is command central and is responsible for communicating to the rest of the body.
- The autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary functions such as breathing, blood pressure and energy production is triggered. This causes a burst of energy that is available in the body.
- Adrenaline is then released into the blood stream, which allows the hearth to beat faster, senses to become sharper and lungs to breath faster.
- If the stress remains after the adrenaline release subsides, cortisol is released. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”, and will keep your body on alert’
- Once the threat or trigger is no longer present, cortisol levels fall and the stress response begins to return to a normal state.
The Problem Comes With Chronic Stress
Chronic stress is many of us feel on a daily basis. The issue with chronic stress is that the response is never resolved by the body. As a result, cortisol levels are constantly high. This leads to adverse effects on the mind and body.
- Financial problems
- Relationship issues/divorce
- Jobs loss
- Too many commitments
- Overly elevated expectations that one will likely not meet
- Job tasks/deadline overload
- Injury or chronic illness
- Uncertainty about the future
Chronic stress can have numerous negative effects on the body including:
- Sleep issues
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Digestive and stomach issues
If it is not managed properly, your risk for diseases such as cancer and heart disease are increased.
People often deal with stress in different ways
Unfortunately, most ways we deal with it are unhealthy and don’t resolve the underlying issue. It may lead to:
- snacking when you’re not hungry
- streaming movies and TV of hours at a time
- Shutting yourself out from loved ones or lashing out at friends and family
- Sleeping all day
- Not caring about your health, work or family
6 Best Ways to Cope
There are more studies done on the stress-relieving power of yoga than any other type of exercise. This is because it not only works the physical aspect of the body, but the mental and spiritual as well. As a result, you will achieve more mindfulness and be in better tune with your body.
Yoga can be intimidating for some. But the beauty of yoga is that it is for all ages and all levels of activity. There are many levels of yoga from beginner to advance. The important thing is to find the right level and practice regularly to improve.
2. Weightlifting and Cardio
Exercise is well known to help reduce stress. However, sometimes the regular exercise routine isn’t enough. This is especially true for those who have frustrated, angry or moody. Increasing the intensity of exercise through interval training, HIIT programs, boxing/heavy bag work or weightlifting can be a good way to control the excess energy related to stress.
3. Sleep Hygiene
We are all aware that the body needs 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal health and body repair. However, stress and anxiety can affect our ability to settle down and sleep at night. The result is even more cortisol production, which can have adverse affects on the body.
Proper sleep hygiene is a great way to help the body and mind prepare for sleep.
- Start a sleep schedule for consistent wake-up and bedtime
- Reduce caffeine intake especially late in the day
- Avoid eating at least 4 hours before bed
- Sleep in a dark room
- Turn off the TV (if it is in your room) and avoid looking at your phone right before bed
4. Setting Screen Time Limits
Social media and TV can be flooded with stressful and depressing news stories. Setting a time limit for yourself for screen and social media viewing can help to reduce stress. Combine this with your sleep hygiene and avoid social media one hour before bed and TV 30 minutes before going to sleep.
5. Nutrition and Gut Health
Eating habits and gut health are related to brain activity. The digestive system is known as the second brain and communicates to the brain directly. Unhealthy gut bacteria that occurs from poor eating habits has a close correlation to stress-related disorders.
If you tend to stress eat with sweets, cookies, ice cream or chips, you are adversely affecting your gut health by feeding the bad bacteria and stripping away the good. Doing this over time will lead to weight gain, poor physical health, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
6. Mindfulness and Meditation
Perhaps one of the most important ways to reduce stress by increasing your own body awareness. This is a very holistic focus that emphasizes the mind, body and spirit. We so often get consumed in our surroundings and forget to take time for ourselves to reconnect. This is not a selfish act. It is a healthy routine that we should all get into.
Mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress, increase a sense of control, and improve overall brain health and cognition.
There are several apps our there that can guide you through meditation. However, even just sitting alone and working on your breathing for 10-15 minutes a day can help you to achieve this.
Stress is a normal body response that we use to survive.
However, chronic stress is quite harmful and needs to be controlled. Using these tools can be a great way to reduce stress. More importantly, it can help you to better cope with stressors in the future. As a result, you will lead a healthier, happier life.
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