Stress is a nasty and very real health condition that causes negative health effects. The unfortunate part about stress is we can't avoid it. Some stress is good but constant stress we experience due to work, family, sickness, money issues and the always on news causes damage both physically and emotionally. The really sad part is that we are so used to being under stress that we don't even recognize the signs or symptoms.
I am a typical Type A personality. I've always believed in working hard and playing hard is what I needed to do to have a fulfilling life. I felt energized and was addicted to the stress. I always put others first, put on a happy face and never took care of myself. Sure, the image that people saw translated that I was taking care of myself (eating healthy, working out) but I wasn't. Truly taking care of myself was a very foreign concept until I got sick.
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT YOUR BODY?
Stress causes a wide variety of illnesses. But stress can cause other illnesses, such as flu, colds, heart disease, high blood pressure, interrupt your sleep, make you sad or irritable. (Source: NIMH) This is some serious stuff! My stress manifested itself as hypothyroidism.
I developed hypothyroidism years after my body could not deal with stress anymore. The worst part is that I didn't recognize the symptoms. I chalked it up to getting older. For about two years, I was slowly deteriorating. Sleeping 10 hours and not feeling refreshed. Brain fog and forgetfulness. Unmotivated and unable to complete simple tasks at work.
Of course, when the diagnosis came back my GP wanted me to see an endocrinologist. I have always focused on natural solutions for any health situation that has come up. So I decided to try acupuncture and Ayurveda. Within 6 weeks, my thyroid returned to borderline status, which is what I have always been. Now, while I feel great now it is possible I will relapse. Especially if I don't make several lifestyle changes. Like manage stress!
Now let's not kid ourselves, life is difficult! We will always have stress in our life but we need to be able to manage it. Stress is only one part of my hypothyroid diagnosis.
Changing my mind-set to let go, be satisfied, accept myself and learning how to relax is very hard. It is something I work on every single day. I am not always successful. That is OK. Making a major life change like this takes time, effort and practice. But like anything in life, when we decide to make a change, the work is worth it.
I am a Certified Health Coach and Holistic Nutritionist passionate about guiding people just like you to achieve their health goals.
Are you looking to create new habits so you can stop feeling exhausted, moody, stressed, overweight, bloated and gassy? Have you been diagnosed with an illness and aren't sure how to manage it with all you have to do?
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✅Be more present with the kids
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✅Banish fatigue and gain energy
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✅Sleep through out the night and wake up feeling rested
✅Say goodbye to brain fog, mood swings and headaches
✅Reduce stress and anxiety
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WHAT ARE THE COMMON SIGNS OF STRESS?
Stress leads to a wide variety of physical symptoms. Digestive distress is a very common reaction to stress. Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, upset stomach and even more severe issues such as Colitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The digestive system reacts negatively to stress because when we are stressed, the body takes energy away from the process of digestion. The body (rightfully so) sends energy to other systems to help us deal with stress.
Other physical symptoms of stress include frequent colds, tense muscles, headaches, chest pain and rapid heartbeat. Discovering what causes stress is key to dealing with it in a healthy way. One way to do so is to write how you are feeling in a journal. As you begin to keep track of how you are feeling both physically and emotionally, patterns will emerge. When you identify stressful situations, you can start to deal with it in the moment and start to find relief. Below are stress relief techniques that you can practice.
STRESS RELIEF TECHNIQUES
1) Just Breathe. When I am stressing in the moment, I take a step away from what I am doing and take a few deep breaths. In fact, Delicious Living recommends doing the following:
Inhale for four slow seconds (one Mississippi… two Mississippi…), hold for three seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Try to inhale and exhale so deeply that your belly expands out and in (sometimes called yogic breathing). Repeat twice more.
By doing this, you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers blood pressure, decreases the stress hormone cortisol and eases your “fight or flight” response. I always feel better after taking a few deep breathes.
2) Set Goals & Priorities. At the end of the day, does it really matter if I didn't get to do laundry today? Well, maybe if I need clean underwear for the upcoming week! But 9 times out of 10, it doesn't matter. When stress rears it's ugly head, look at your to-do list and figure out what really must get done and what can wait for another day.
3) Listen To Music. Even if you work in an open environment at home or in an office, you can listen to soothing music. Pop in your earbuds, go to YouTube and find music known to relief stress or listen to a playlist on Spotify or your phone that relaxes you. Research shows that listening to music can lower blood pressure and anxiety (Source: WebMD).
4) Move Your Body Movement can be great or may cause stress. The key is to find what works for you. Sometimes scheduling workout routines adds stress to my life. But over the long term exercising regularly has helped me manage stress. I just feel better after working out, even if I have to force myself to do it. If it is hard for you to find time to get to the gym, try taking a walk at lunchtime with a friend, family member or colleague.
Why does walking help? It’s a stress-relief trifecta: Exercise, nature and laughter all relieve stress by triggering the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones, from your brain. Spending time outside, especially in a forested park or other green area instead of a city street, is linked to better blood pressure. (Source: Delicious Living)
5) Try Essential Oils. I used to think lavender was only useful to help me go to sleep. Research suggests that inhaling certain essential oils such as lavender can quell anxiety, possibly by igniting the smell receptors in your nose to send soothing signals to your brain. (Source: Delicious Living) You can either use a diffuser or try using an aromatherapy necklace.
6) Practice Yoga. Why is this different than exercise when you can experience a wide range of physical benefits from yoga? Because yoga is more than physical. Sure, most people start practicing because of the physical benefits (me included!). But after you practice for a period of time, you realize the mental benefits of practicing yoga.
I'm not saying you have to convert your spiritual or religious beliefs and start following yoga philosophy. But there is something inherently calming about only caring for yourself for 30 minutes to 1 hour. You have to be in the moment to practice yoga. If your mind wanders, you won't be able to do the poses. Also, it creates a better relationship with yourself that is nonjudgmental and allows you to develop a more balanced ego with nothing to prove or hide (Source: Yoga Journal).
7) Meditate. Meditation helps you turn inward and reduce stress. While most people think they have to spend hours meditating to get the benefits, turns out even 5 minutes will help calm your mind. The hardest part about meditation is being still and allowing the mind to go blank. Thoughts will come to you while meditating so you have to recognize them and then let them go. But I promise, over time as you practice meditating, it becomes easier and easier.
Don't think you have to spend a ton of money on mediation classes. There are plenty of free practices on You Tube or on the internet. My favorite You Tube Yogi is Brett Larkin. She has short and long yoga practices and meditations, all for free! I find it really convenient to do her practices whenever I have a few minutes in my day.
I hope this article helps you learn how to deal with stress. Stress management is key to have a healthy life. Stress can cause numerous illnesses such as heart disease and thyroid dysfunction. Remember, stress does not have to take over your life! This article shared natural stress relief techniques that you can incorporate into your life with a little practice.
Do you think you will try to reduce stress using any of the above tips? Let me know by leaving me a comment below.