April is National Stress Awareness Month
Happy Spring, Happy Passover and Happy Easter to All!
Now that the clocks have sprung forward- we know that warmer weather can’t be far away! April also brings with it Stress Awareness Month, which has been recognized every April since 1992. But this year, it seems particularly appropriate after the past year we have all endured. Dr. Gil and I love to do community workshops as many of you know- and without a doubt the most requested one we do is the Stress Management Workshop. Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations is a question so many of us have, and when we do manage our stress- it can go a long way to living a healthier and more positive life. Stress can often be debilitating, and it can either cause and/or aggravate health problems. And since stress is a normal part of human existence — nobody is immune to it. So it’s important to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we recognize when stress rears its ugly head.
So let’s talk briefly about where stress comes from. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is a natural response by our nervous systems and can actually motivate people to prepare or perform at a high level. In fact- stress might even be life-saving in some situations. However, while the “Fight or Flight’ response may be an evolutionary advantageous mechanism when we were running away from a dinosaur- modern stresses have caused this response to short circuit resulting in a myriad of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, digestive conditions like ulcers, … and stress has even been linked to cancer! Just think for a minute about how much stress we have been under in the past year. Fear of the virus, sickness, deaths, loss of jobs, loss of income, isolation, lack of healthy outlets like exercise and social interaction, poor eating habits, etc….. need I go on???
So, if you’re living with high levels of stress ( …and which of us aren’t these days?), you’re putting your entire well-being at risk. Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional equilibrium, as well as your physical health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life. It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have a lot more control than you might think.
Effective stress management helps you break the hold stress has on your life, so you can be happier, healthier, and more productive. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on. But stress management is not one-size-fits-all. That’s why it’s important to experiment and find out what works best for you. So the following 5 stress management tips can help you do that.
Tip 1: Identify the sources of stress in your life
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. While it’s easy to identify major stressors such as changing jobs, moving, or going through a divorce, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress can be more complicated. It’s all too easy to overlook how your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contribute to your everyday stress levels.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Tip 2: Practice the 4 A’s of stress management
While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable times: your commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
1. Avoid Unnecessary Stress- It’s not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
2. Alter the Situation- If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
3. Adapt to the Stressor- If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
4. Accept the Things you Can’t Change- Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a global pandemic. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.
Tip 3: Get moving
When you’re stressed, the last thing you probably feel like doing is getting up and exercising. But physical activity is a huge stress reliever—and you don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries. While you’ll get the most benefit from regularly exercising for 30 minutes or more, it’s okay to build up your fitness level gradually. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day
Tip 4: Connect with Others
There is nothing more calming than spending quality time with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. In fact, face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body’s defensive “fight-or-flight” response. It’s nature’s natural stress reliever. So make it a point to connect regularly—and in person—with family and friends. Keep in mind that the people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress. They simply need to be good listeners. And try not to let worries about looking weak or being a burden keep you from opening up. The people who care about you will be flattered by your trust. It will only strengthen your bond.
Tip 5: Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle
In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.
Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.
Finally- many studies have shown a positive correlation to lower stress levels and better quality of life for those who implemented chiropractic care. So often visiting our office for an adjustment is the simplest change you can make to remove the interferences — in this case, constant stressors — that impact your health and happiness in so many ways.
If you have any other questions about how you can manage your stress better, feel free to come to one of our upcoming workshops or just speak to us in the office- we are always here to help!