A recent, widely circulated statistic found that “stress accounts for 75%-90% of all visits to the physician.” So why aren’t we devoted to finding ways, preferably holistic, to manage stress effectively?
Stress and Your Body
When stress is a normal part of your day, it’s easy to ignore the signs. Routine pressure is constant, as opposed to traumatic stress.
Eventually, the body receives no clear signal to return to normal. Over time, chronic stress can cause serious health problems, such as
- heart disease,
- high blood pressure,
- lowered immunity
- poor memory
- reproductive issues
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S.)
- and possibly mental illness like depression or anxiety.
Managing the strain of routine stress requires strategy.
Ways to Manage Stress
C. S. Lewis shares, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
Emotional states of grief, fear, and excitement produce physical changes in our bodies. These extreme emotional states elevate body tension and restrict breathing.
We’ve had our fair share of emotional states lately.
Recall a recent stressful event in your personal life and its impact on your breathing.
When you experience negative stress, it helps to have a stress-management method readily available to shift your body’s reaction to the stressor.
If you feel your body reacting to stress, perhaps it triggers a headache, clenched jaw or fist, or heart palpitations, try practicing relaxed breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing.
Relaxed breathing signals the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to release calming chemicals into your bloodstream, which quiets the body.
“Breathing techniques and relaxing the body facilitates a greater calm and clear thinking.” Depending upon how severely your body reacts to the stressor, sometimes it’s best to regulate your breathing first.
S- Stop what you are doing
T- Take a few deep breaths
O- Observe what is going on with your body.
P- Proceed with something that will alleviate the stress
How I used Breathing to Manage stress
We live on a working farm. Among other livestock breeds, we raise Romney wool sheep. In the past few weeks, one of my oldest and dearest ewes exhibited signs of distress from old age and a degenerative disease prolific among sheep.
This weekend, Charlotte’s (all of my sheep affectionately named after characters from Jane Austen novels), the condition worsened. You can imagine the stress that ensued.
Throughout the ordeal, I remembered to use the S.T.O.P. method. In my particular circumstance, the “O= Observe” portion of the practice aided in reducing the fear circuit in my brain, which evoked a calming effect.
Writer Scotty Smith often publishes prayers that address specific times of stress— trust-stress, times of devastating loss, periods of social and community crisis.
During stressful times, it helps to meditate on a specific verse of the Bible. Whether you say the verse aloud or silently repeat it in your head, the crucial step is to focus on the promise of the passage.
It’s tempting to skip meals or rely on fast food during stressful periods of life. Or maybe your natural response to stress is overeating.
Prolonged stress will eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies. The body does not function well under pressure. Phyllis A. Balk’s comprehensive reference book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, asserts that “as a result of a complex of physical reactions, the body does not absorb nutrients well when under stress.”
Long-term stress can suppress your immune system. With a suppressed immune system, you become vulnerable to infectious diseases. An impaired immune system makes your body less able to make a full recovery from illness.
Eating well-balanced and nourishing meals will keep strengthening your immune system.
In certain life-changing, stressful situations, it’s challenging to find the time or motivation to eat well. It’s helpful to have meal planning done for you. I designed a 21-Day Healthy Eating Plan for busy people like you.
Take a Break
Often, taking a step back from the stressful situation clears your head. I like to call it soulful self-care. Engage in healthy living practices and activities regularly so that you can thrive during stressful situations.
One of my favorite ways to take a break and clear my head is a nature walk. Being outside in God’s beauty rejuvenates me. For you, maybe music or a melody eases the tension.
Here is a self-care planner to get you started.
Exercising just 30 minutes a day not only helps you feel good and maintain health, but it builds resilience “as you move between states of relaxation and safe mobilization.”
Recent studies by Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney of resilient people, those who dealt with traumatic experiences, discovered that consistent exercise habits played an enormous role in their recovery.
Many of the resilient individuals interviewed for the study believed that “staying fit helped them, both during their traumatic ordeals and during their recovery.”
And, interestingly, the study listed that resilient people also possessed a sense of optimism, ability to face fears, a moral compass, strong faith, social support.
Exercise helps you to adapt to the stress you will feel when life presents you with a challenge.
Sleep health, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of health and well-being and managing stress.
- establish a bedtime routine
- get to bed early
- avoid electronics an hour before bed
- darken the room
- diffuse essential oils that induce relaxation and sleep
Talking about your stress helps. Move forward into action.
Confer with your family members, pastor, friends, or healthcare professional about your stress.
Other resources are health and Wellness Coaches who collaborate with clients to develop ways to manage stress. A health and wellness coach inspires and supports you in maximizing your potential for change.
Working together, you can devise goals and strategies for breaking the reactivity cycle of stress.
Many podcasts, webinars, online courses provide robust resources and tips on effectively dealing with stress.
I designed a Wellness Binder so that you can track your health and wellness, set goals, and journal about your spiritual and physical well-being.
Reduce Stress with the Help of Herbs
The practice of using adaptogens, a group of herbs that assist in helping your body “adapt, “respond, and reset during times of stress, is a part of Ayurveda medicine. Ayurveda is one of the oldest approaches to wellness.
I like to promote this method of dealing with stress because of its affordability and ease. The essential factor is to, first, cultivate a lifestyle of healthy living and then supplement that lifestyle with herbs, aromatherapy, vitamins, and such.
Your Journey in Managing Stress
There is a wide range of natural strategies that can support you in managing routine stress. You may have to experiment with several methods before you find the one that works for you.
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