Each April, in light of Stress Awareness month, experts on the topic, offer information intended to make us smarter and better armed against stress. Some of today’s leading authorities on stress believe this modern-day pandemic has become so pervasive that we’ve simply adapted to this unhealthy condition.
Stress ages us, it creates mental and emotional overload, creativity, clarity and decision making abilities decline, it causes aches and pains, adds fat to our belly area, fragments our thinking and can make us exceptionally irritable and unpleasant to be around. In fact, stress has been found to be the number one proxy-killer disease and the American Medical Association notes it as the basic cause of more than 60% of all human illness.
Harvard-trained integrative physician and New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Vitality with The Gottfried Protocol, Dr. Sara Gottfried, explains, “Chronic stress burns through your happy brain chemicals such as serotonin, the neurotransmitter that supports your mood, sleep, and appetite. In other words, if you don’t manage stress – it manages you by causing or worsening 95% of disease and robbing you of sleep, good humor, and a thin waist.”
Helping to educate more people about the seriousness of stress, HeartMath, widely recognized for its science-based stress solutions, created this infographic showing how stress affects the body and offering five uncommonly known facts about stress: http://www.heartmath.com/infographics/how-stress-effects-the-body.html. This is an excellent picture of how stress affects us - whether we know it or not.
So what can you do to reduce stress or even outsmart it? Try one of following suggestions or better yet try them all. Either way you’ll be lessening your own stress and taking steps towards a healthier, happier life.
1. Pets are a great way to manage stress. Animals help by allowing us to focus on the positive things in our lives. Playing with pets and just having them in the house can reduce fears and anxieties in most situations. Moreover, the simple act of touching or petting an animal can actually change the way you respond to a stressful situation. It’s important to note that this may not be a solution for everyone – as pets do come with additional work and responsibility. For most people, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks.
2. Adjust your eating habits. Long-term stress can increase your appetite and cause you to binge on unhealthy foods. This kind of emotional eating is often the body’s way of coping with the stressors. Mother Nature makes excellent stress fighters. Foods naturally rich in vitamins and minerals can help fight increased levels of cortisol – a stress hormone. Next time you get the urge to binge on greasy fast food or ice cream, try a handful of vitamin C-packed berries instead.
3. Train and guide yourself to better manage stress. For those that are serious about reducing stress, there are high-tech tools to help. For example, the Inner Balance trainer (http://innerbalanceapp.com) provides a highly specialized 3-step technique, and real-time feedback helps you synchronize your breath and heart rhythms as you retrain your mind body response to stress. This techno stress reducer has become widely popular with healthcare professionals that want an effective solution they can suggest to patients. “If a patient rolls her eyes at my prescription of yoga or mindfulness, I whip this out. This isn’t some crazy Berkeley woo-woo idea— major healthcare organizations use it. Using this technology I am less likely to fight with my husband or scream at my children. I still have the same stressors but I can meet them differently with this training,” said Dr. Gottfried.
4. Be social. While there are times it feels like relationships with friends and family may be the cause of stress, a strong supportive network of family and friends can also significantly reduce stress and act as buffer. Enjoying the company of others can relieve feelings of tension and improve overall psychological well-being. Being with others that we care for and love can increase our positive emotional experiences. Some positive emotions have been shown to increase DHEA, known as the anti-aging hormone, and trigger oxytocin, known as the love hormone. These good-for-you hormones can help combat stress and may even boost the immune system.
This April, take advantage of the added information available throughout Stress Awareness Month. Adding even one of these new ideas into your daily life may help in creating the healthier, less stressful lifestyle you deserve!