Stress is something that touches almost everyone. It might be a regular or even daily thing that affects our lives, from work obligations to family responsibilities and the art of rushing and being "busy". Often situations arise that cause unusual stress like trauma, loss or becoming overwhelmed and other times it can be cumulative bouts of anxiety or depression that spins the mind and body out of balance. The stresses that occur in our lives can be directly linked to our mental health and it is important to develop appropriate coping skills to ensure our mental health stays balanced.
Stress is a root cause of many acute and chronic health conditions and can also impede the body's ability to heal. Our bodies are designed to heal in a state of rest and calmness, the nervous system cannot do its job of recovering and mending the body when it is in that fight or flight mode. Conversely, the responses the body initiates for stress are designed for only short periods of time to help defend and escape, but when we continue to run from that proverbial bear for days, weeks and even months, the body eventually shuts down. And almost always, the mind goes with it.
If you have experienced this constant state of stress, you likely have felt tired, overwhelmed, unable to control your emotions and felt irritable on the regular. You might be relying on things like coffee or energy drinks in the day to stay awake and alert and are even having trouble sleeping. You could be experiencing high blood pressure, mental fog, memory loss, skin irritations, digestive issues, and just not feeling yourself. In some cases you may be experiencing panic attacks, jaw clenching, headaches and physical pain. Some people do not have healthy coping mechanisms in place and turn to alcohol, drugs or sex to deal with the negative in their life. I mean seriously...being stressed out is SERIOUS.
So HOW should you deal with stress?
It starts with YOU. In order to learn healthy stress management habits, you should always start with the basics: SLEEP, HYDRATION, HEALTHY FOOD, MOVEMENT, NATURE. A great starting plan looks like this:
1. SLEEP: Ensure you get 8 hours of sleep every night.
2. HYDRATE: Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Adding lemon to your water is a great way to add a little kick of health and taste too!
3. NOURISH: eliminate processed foods and eat more vegetables.
4. MOVE: Adults need at least 20 minutes of movement per day. It doesn't have to be aggressive and if you start with something you will gain momentum with increased energy and positive mood changes! Dance, do yoga, walk. Even just practicing getting up and down off the floor counts!
5. NATURE: Daily breaths of fresh air are a great way to cleanse the body and the mind. Studies show engaging in nature, separate from urban areas, helps to relieve stress both psychologically and physically. Discover your local park, trail or take a walk through the woods!
In some cases, people will need a bit more help learning how they can introduce healthy stress management strategies into their life. Seeking the help of a healthcare practitioner is a great start to get the support and information you need to make positive and healthy changes that will stick.
Understanding that we all need help at some point is also helpful. In removing the stigma against mental health struggles and knowing that we are all trying to do the best with what we have, we can open the door for people to feel comfortable in seeking support. Conversation and being the change that is necessary for healthy lifestyle habits can make the difference for your friend or family member who needs to see that it can be done! Stress is normal and regular part of everyday life. By committing to YOU, it can be managed without taking over your life.
Now go, grab a bottle of water, get outside for 10 mins and have a good sleep tonight :)