Stress management – The key to health
Do you have a busy life? Is it ‘normal’ to be essentially running as soon as you step out of bed? Getting the kids to school, getting yourself to work or to doing errands, and then activities in the evening, preparing meals and then falling into bed exhausted, only to start all over again then next morning. In North America, we seem to live in a state of constant stress. It’s valued as part of a modern, fast-paced life.
While it makes sense that we need to experience stress from time to time, our bodies are not equipped to handle it on a regular basis. Our bodies handle stress essentially by reacting as though we are running from a lion in the jungle. This reaction is the same whether we are actually in that jungle, or if we have a presentation in front of colleagues or have tight deadlines to meet. Our stress response activates when our kids are screaming too, or if we get into a disagreement with a spouse or co-worker. These are today’s lions.
Does spending 10-12 hours a day in the jungle, running for your life, sound like it would be a good way to experience a long, happy existence? Of course not. Unfortunately, so many of us do exactly that.
If you want the key to better health, we’ve outlined some simple steps that you can begin immediately. Of course, it will take time and effort, but learning to manage your stress properly can literally add years to your life! Not to mention more happiness along the way.
1. More nutrients
Eating well takes time and effort. If you’re looking to help your body manage stress and increase energy, increasing your nutrient intake can make a big difference. Eat loads of veggies, drink water and limit your junk. We all know that it works and there is so much research to show the benefits but sometimes, it’s hard to implement. If you want some motivation and tips, talk to our Nutritionist for information on healthy meal planning, recipes and tips. Our naturopathic doctor can also help to identify more specific dietary needs if you are having particular digestive symptoms and having trouble eating certain foods. You can also join a free healthy eating facebook page to inspire you too! Every little change counts. Even if you start with just one healthier meal or snack a day.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future. It can help you stay in the moment and minimize the amount of stress that your mind has to process each day. Even a few minutes can have a big impact. Start with deep breathing and focusing on the present moment. For more comprehensive guidance, and for additional tips on stress management, our counsellor can help you with stress management tools and coping strategies.
There are many ways to help your body relax. Think about how much time we spend in that ‘jungle’, running from the lion. Those hours of stress need to be balanced with some time to rest. Your body needs energy to direct its attention to other important functions such as digestion and sleep. When you’re in the jungle, the last thing you want is to stop to have a bowel movement!! Take yourself out of the jungle as many times per day as you can. Remember, your mind has to relax along with your body. You can try going for a walk, listening to music, watching comedy (please, not the news!), taking a long bath, reading a novel or anything else that helps you feel calm. Stretching is also a great way to help circulation in your body and help your mind relax while doing it. It can help relieve pain, which your body considers to be another stress. If you do have pain, consider chiropractic treatment to help realign your body and posture or acupuncture to help you with circulation and relaxation management. Getting massage is another great way of not only alleviating pain, but also taking time for relaxation. Remember to schedule it in regularly so you don’t forget and so that your body can experience regular benefits.
A great way to minimize stress is to unplug and connect with your life. Whether it’s noticing nature around you (we have so many beautiful green spaces in and around Milton), or laughing with your child, it can so powerful to experience the little joys that life can offer. If you are always on technology or social media, it’s hard to detach from the mental stressors of getting work done, your to-do lists and overthinking. Putting your cell phone out of sight for a few minutes, or hours, can immediately help with your health and happiness. This can be especially useful before bed to help you ensure a great night’s sleep.
Long term stress can lead to many health problems such as headaches, insomnia, auto-immune disease, hormonal imbalance, heart disease, difficulty coping with daily life and so much more. We end up relying on things like caffeine, smoking, alcohol to get us through a busy day, or to help us unwind again after it all. This causes a repetitive cycle that’s difficult to break. Implement some of the above strategies to help you get more stress-free time and more healthy years into your life!