Years ago when I was in India without a job and without my own place, I was under a lot of stress. I was eating and sleeping well and generally healthy. But I was losing weight. An aunt suggested that I start drinking Ensure to improve my health and increase my weight. I consumed bottle after bottle of Ensure and was still losing weight. My parents were so concerned that they took me to a doctor and he ordered a full blood report. When the results came back ‘normal’ he said it was because of stress.
When my circumstances changed, I automatically gained weight and looked healthier. Stress is something we downplay in our lives. It seeps in, adds up and before you know it, stress wreaks havoc in your physical and mental health.
Stress Affects your Mind and Body
Stress affects digestion and can cause ulcers and gastritis. It robs you of good quality sleep because stress hormones keep you in the fight or flight state, day in and day out. When you sleep, your body repairs and restores tissues. Without good quality sleep, your immunity goes down and you tend to fall sick more often.
Prolonged stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, leaving you tired all the time. It also affects your happiness and your relationships. You tend to be more irritable and get easily frustrated. Emotional stress can also lead to depression.
Remember our bodies are not designed to be in a constant state of stress. And because stress is cumulative, it is so important to find ways to alleviate stress on a daily basis.
Together, these techniques pack a punch and before you know it, you will be on your way to a happier and healthier life.
1. Eat Healthy
You are more likely to eat junk food when you are stressed out, as a way of comforting yourself. But this does more damage in the long run. So make it a habit to eat healthy every day. Add lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals. Eat home cooked meals. Some people find cooking therapeutic and relaxing after a long day at work. If this is you, go for it. Stock all the ingredients so you have everything at hand to make a nutritious meal from scratch. Have a good multivitamin every day. Include more magnesium in your diet to combat stress. Drink plenty of water and reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption. Both substances mess with your sleep cycle.
2. Exercise for 30 minutes
Hit the gym for thirty minutes or go for a brisk walk. Dance or do yoga. Just get moving and get those endorphins pumping through your blood. Endorphins make you feel good and exercising regularly improves your ability to deal with stress. Don’t do rigorous exercise right before bed time or you will have a hard time falling asleep.
3. Practice Deep Breathing
I cannot stress (pun intended) the importance of deep breathing several times a day. Especially deep abdominal breathing with slow exhalation. The reason this works is that slow exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system which makes the body calm down. Set a reminder on your phone so you remember to breathe deeply and slowly at least three or four times a day. Doing it before an event that you consider stress-inducing also helps.
Learn to meditate. I think meditation is a life skill. It should be taught to kids so they grow up knowing how to operate from a state of calm. Everyone is different. So the meditation technique that will be a good fit for you is something you have to figure out on your own. Try different techniques and see what works for you. Silently chanting a mantra in your head works if your mind is over active. Some people like guided meditations. Others like to focus on their breathing to still their mind. Nothing busts stress like meditation. It makes you calmer and more grounded. If you are not getting enough sleep because you are stressed or your mind keeps racing, meditate. Meditating for 20 to 30 minutes is equivalent to getting 4 to 6 hours of sleep.
5. Practice Full Body Relaxation
Learn how to relax every muscle in your body from head to toe. Do it before going to sleep. It helps you sleep soundly and you feel refreshed when you wake up. Stress stored in the body causes aches and pains, tight muscles and knots. Practicing deep relaxation techniques helps release the stress at a physical level.
6. Connect with Nature
Nature is the best stress buster. Just walking through your garden or a wooded trail and being conscious of the trees and the flowers around you can lift your spirits. We belong to the earth and sometimes in our busy lives we forget this and stay cooped up indoors (happening more now because of the C virus) all day. We are wired to be in nature and not with electronics. So make it a point to step outside every day and connect with nature. You will feel calmer and more grounded.
7. Seek Professional Help
If you constantly feel stressed no matter what, then it’s time to seek professional help. Stress over time can become a conditioned response and you may have to learn new and positive ways of dealing with stress. A psychologist can give you the tools to manage day to day stress. Energy healing can also help with symptoms of stress that do not respond to medication.
How do you cope with stress? Do you use herbs or acupuncture or EFT? I would love to hear from you.