Is stress impacting your health? To a large extent, stress is unavoidable. Here are the top 3 Things you can do to lower the impact stress has on your health.
Stress serves a very important role in our lives. Think back to cavemen in danger of a predator. Our flight or flight response kicks in and we flee from danger. That is an example of short-term stress that helps us recognize danger and stay safe. Fast forward to today. Think about all the different types of stress you are constantly under! Our culture puts so many self-imposed requirements into our daily lives. From the stress of our careers to our kids involved in three different sports at once, serving on the church team, taking part in the PTA, and still feeling like we are not “doing enough.” It can be exhausting! While the previous examples are emotional stress, there are also forms of physical and chemical stress. Cleaning with conventional cleaning products is a form of chemical toxicity and a long-term exposure. Exercise is an example of a physical stress, and the majority of time is a good type of stress. An injury from a car accident is a bad form of physical stress. So, what do we do? We can’t live in a bubble, nor would we want to, but stress has a huge impact on our health. Long term stress that is not properly handled can lead to sleep issues, ulcers, depression, and long-term chronic health issues, just to name a few.
By ADDING the following daily habits into your routine you will be able to better handle the stress that you are exposed to. That’s right, I’m not telling you to stop doing the 42 things you have going on in your life. I’m asking you to add in a few helpful tools into your day that won’t take long, but will give you YEARS back into your life, not to mention quality of life. Start with one right away, and add in a few others when you feel comfortable.
Practice proper breathing with focused meditation. Dr. Shannon McRae refers to this practice as the “Heart/brain Coherence.” Find a quiet place and a comfortable position. Breathe in and out slowly for six breaths. Pick a person in your life you love very much, or have a lot of gratitude for, and focus on them. Focus on that feeling of love, joy, gratitude, and peace. Stay focused for three minutes. When you notice your mind wander, that is ok. Simply get refocused. This will get easier with time. Research shows that within three minutes heart/brain coherence can be achieved, boosting the immune system and relieving anxiety. Aim to do this three-minute practice at least three times per week. Ready to bump it up a notch? Try these free, guided meditation that is perfect for stress management.
Get physical! Studies have shown for years that physical activity helps manage stress, allowing you to continue to participate in the activities you want without feeling frazzled. My personal favorite exercise for stress management is yoga. This easy yoga video is perfect for beginners, free to watch, and geared toward relieving stress. Put on some comfortable clothes, soothing music, and give yoga a try! Aim to do this at the end of a busy day when you want to get refocused on what matters to you most.
Stay grateful. Stress and anxiety can cause our thoughts to tear us down. You might notice that you wake up at 3am completely overwhelmed, going through your to-do list, a recent argument you had, or rehearsing your work routine in your head. You may end up laying awake for hours stressing out about things that usually may not bother you at all! An easy way to get refocused is to make a gratitude list! Each night I pray my gratitude list, thanking God for all the gifts he has blessed me with. Maybe for you having a gratitude journal would be the best start. Start by naming the top three things you are most grateful for. If you wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety like I do, do the same thing. Instead of focusing on what is wrong in your life, focus on what is right! Over time this will change your mindset and will become more automatic for you. For example, if you are about to give an important presentation at work and are feeling anxious, focus your thoughts on being grateful for the ability to speak publicly, being grateful for your career, and grateful for the opportunity to help others.
BONUS: The above three techniques, when used at least three times per week, will greatly reduce the physical toll that stress has on your health from your immune system to your mental health. This will allow you to do the things that you love and the things that are important to you. HOWEVER, it is important to recognize that one of the greatest acts of self love can be simply saying “No.” There are times saying “NO” can be the healthiest choice we make for ourselves. It is so easy to over commit to things in order to help others and get ahead in our careers. Committing to activities we don’t enjoy, just for the sake of peer pressure or work pressure doesn’t serve anyone. You can’t serve others or be at your best when you spread yourself too thin. Take a few minutes to reflect on everything you have going on and decide if saying “no” is in the best interest of your health.
- McRae, Shannon. Heart/Brain Coherence and Stress Reduction. Well Being Journal. March/April 2017. Pg 16.
- Dr.Anil Kumar Edward. Yoga and Stress Management. International Journal of Health. Volume No.8, No.1.pp67-70