STRESS is powerful! It has a way of affecting our whole entire body and well-being! Low levels of chronic stress mixed in with high triggers of stress can lead to a poor immune system, high levels of cortisol and stored belly fat, a sluggish digestive system, a poorly operating liver, adrenal fatigue and more. Ultimately, having low levels of chronic stress without properly managing it will result in low levels of health leading to chronic health issues like high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases or even cancer.
However, for most of us, the low level of stress we experience are not going away. Things like running late for work, being stuck in traffic, poor sleep, meeting deadlines for work or taking care of our families all create these low levels of stress. Throw on top of that a high stress trigger, like losing your job or a loss of a loved one, and we have a disaster waiting to happen in terms of our mental health and well-being. Stress can even be caused from good experiences like planning a wedding or buying a house. We encounter stress each day in so many forms that many of us pass it off as not being stressed but normal life.
So, what is the solution? Learning proper management tools for stress reduction and self-care. We all manage and handle stress differently. However, the key is finding 2-3 techniques that work for you and practicing them regularly. It could be as simple as getting outside for a walk each day or having a routine yoga class that you attend. Maybe its journaling each day or practicing deep breathing. Regardless of what technique you choose, the importance is having some form of an outlet for stress so you don’t let it build until you break.
April is National Stress Awareness month! We have outlined some conventional and unconventional tips and tools on how to manage stress and practice self-care.
Conventional Techniques for Stress Management:
- Massage & Relaxation- Massage is a great way to reduce mental and physical stress. A regular massage can help improve circulation and blood flow which releases good hormones and dopamine, giving us a positive sense of well-being. Massage also reduces physical stress stored in tight muscles and can relieve aches and pain. Although a professional massage may sound good, you can get these same benefits from self-massage or using at home massage tools. A great affordable massage tool to release pressure and pain is a tennis ball or trigger point massage hook.
- Yoga- Yoga is a multitool when it comes to decreasing stress. Yoga, like any exercise, moves the body keeping it healthy, releasing endorphins and neurotransmitters that help us feel happy. Yoga also aids in releasing tension that is stored in muscles caused by mental or physical stress. Most forms of yoga also include breath work; connecting the mind to the body and creating stillness. Yoga is a great practice to teach yourself how to remain calm in difficult poses which in-turn teaches us to remain calm in difficult times of our lives.
- Meditation- Meditation can take on many forms and all of them are good for reducing stress. Meditation could simply begin by just doing a deep breathing You could use mantra’s in your meditation, repeating a saying or word that means something powerful to you. If you are religious, meditation could be in a form of prayer or worship. Meditation or deep breathing helps shut down cortisol levels, one of the stress hormones, and decrease activity in the default mode network (DMN) of the brain. The DMN is also known as “monkey mind” because it is responsible for wandering thoughts which lead to a high association of anxiety for most people. Regardless of the form of meditation that you choose, begin by finding a quite spot to scan your body- breath, reflect and focus on gratitude, love and relaxation.
- Exercise- Exercise is my favorite way to reduce stress! Regular exercise has been proven to decrease overall levels of tension and stress, stabilize or even elevate your mood, give a boost in self-esteem and confidence as well as improve sleep. Exercise does this by increasing the production of endorphins, the feel-good hormones, and neurotransmitters in the brain. While also improving your overall health and sense of well-being. Exercise, is widely known as one of the best antidepressants and anxiety drugs on the market; reducing stress and giving you command over your body and mind.
- Getting Outside- Studies show, just being out in nature has been linked to producing lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Being outside, in the natural green space, reduces muscle tension, lowers blood pressure and brain activity- allowing the mind to be at ease. Other benefits of getting outside are increased levels of vitamin D, a better immune system and a lower heart rate. Advance the benefits of getting outside by talking a walk, going for a hike, gardening or fishing to also increase the release the feel-good endorphins while being out in nature!
- Rest- Stress has long been linked to causing poor quality and sleep issues. It is a vicious cycle. You’re stressed! So, you sleep poorly due to high levels of cortisol, insulin and possibly racing thoughts. Therefore, you wake up more stressed due to insufficient sleep. Sound familiar? Having proper techniques to manage your stress will aid in proper rest and relaxation allowing your body to reset and recover from stress. Focus on 6-8 hours of good sleep each night. However, sometimes it’s not possible to get more hours of sleep in a day. So, concentrating on safe guarding the hours of sleep we do get. A proper bedtime routine and stress management tools will make sure the hours of sleep we do get are of the highest quality! Try one of our stress reducing techniques, such as, yoga or meditation prior to bedtime and see what it does for your sleep quality and stress.
Unconventional Techniques for Stress Management:
- Tapping- Tapping, also known as (EFT) or the Emotional Freedom Techniques – is similar to acupuncture because it uses the same type of energetic points (meridians) in the body to alleviate stress and anxiety, the feeling of being overwhelmed, pain (both emotional & physical) and tension. Most of these acupressure points are located on the face, hands, and upper body. Instead of using needles like acupuncture, you use your own two fingertips and you can do it anywhere. Tapping can help relieve those “negative” types of feelings that we carry around in our bodies, but it can also help you to focus on “positive” types of feelings like gratitude & appreciation. So, whether you are happy or stressed, tapping will benefit you. Furthermore, it is a quick technique as it only takes 2 minutes to do a full round of tapping. You can use tapping or EFT technique on the job, or in your daily life quickly and easily to reduce stress.
- Laughing- The saying is true, laugher is the best medicine! A good laugh has the ability to release physical tension and stress in the body. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, muscles, and increases the endorphins released in your brain. Furthermore, laughter reduces the stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, & adrenaline) and boost the immune system by increasing immune cells in the body. Studies have even shown a “fake” laugh has the same effect and can improve your mood. Try it, start with a good “fake” laugh and before long you won’t be faking it anymore.
- Humming or Singing- Humming, also known as the sound healing, is a self-healing method accessible to everyone (if you have a voice and can speak), then you can hum. It is one of the simplest yet most profound sounds we can make and it produces a powerful vibratory resonance that benefits the body, mind, and spirit. Not only is it relaxing, it also affects us on a physical level. The research behind humming shows how self-created sounds can literally rearrange molecular structure and create new neural pathways in the brain by releasing nitric oxide, a neurotransmitter fundamental to health and well-being, as well as oxytocin, the “love” hormone. Its healing benefits include: aiding with sleep, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress levels, increases lymphatic circulation and melatonin production, releases endorphins, creates new neural pathways in the brain, and boosts blood platelet production.
- Coloring- Coloring has the ability to downgrade the fear center of the brain, quiet a restless mind, condense thoughts and produce creativity into our world. Similar to how we react to meditation, coloring brings quietness and mindfulness to the forefront. Use coloring as a way to unwind after a long day of work or create a calm environment on a hectic day to relieve stress.
- Mantra or Mudra- Often, one’s faith can be a comfort. By saying a prayer, mantra or mudra can provide a calming sensation, create peace of mind, and elevate consciousness. A mantra (a word, sound, statement, or phrase that is repeated frequently) is a tool that can evoke feelings of relaxation, help to relieve physical or emotional tension. Mantra’s can be a reminder that we aren’t always in control of everything and help us to operate from a place of peace and calm. Mantra’s are an accessible tool to calm your mind anywhere, anytime. You can practice saying it loudly, softly, or even internally. Mudra is a Sanskrit word that means “seal,” “gesture,” or “mark.” Mudras, usually done with the hands or fingers, facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body and enhance one’s inner journey. The subtle science behind why a mudra might work for some people is that our fingers have nerve terminals connected to our endocrine glands. When the fingers touch in a certain manner, the endocrine glands receive a subtle, electromagnetic communication. Combine a mantra and mudra together to create a peaceful and relaxed feeling.
- Music or Dancing- Music and dance can have a powerful effect on the mind and body. Music is an applicable tool in reducing stress and relaxing. A slower tempo, like classical music, can aid in quieting the mind, relaxing the muscles and even improve sleep. Dancing is a form of movement which releases the feel-good hormones (endorphins) and neurotransmitters which decrease stress and produce a state of happiness within our minds. Add music and dance together for a perfect pick me up and stress reducer.