Friday, April 18, 2014

Holistic Wellness - Dealing With Stress Naturally

Dealing With Stress Naturally
Stress can cause headaches,
fatigue, and anxiety
Stress is a normal part of life! It is our physical and emotional response to pressure. Most of us can handle some stress and, in fact, would probably be bored with life if we didn't experience any. It also helps us stay safe, giving us the ability to take action if we need to. The trouble comes when we have to deal with too much.

Holistic Wellness - Dealing With Stress Naturally
Stress helped early humans
react quickly when danger looked
them in the eye
When we are under pressure, the body releases neurochemicals and hormones which prepare us to take action (the fight or flight response). That was perfect in cave-man days when a person's safety was in constant jeopardy. To survive, early humans had to recognize danger and be able to fight it off or flee. But in today's world, we aren't fighting off dinosaurs or running for our lives. We are typically dealing with stressful situations while doing such things as sitting at a desk or driving. So, the chemicals released in our body simply stay there. And that causes us harm.

What causes stress

There are some situations which are expected stressors, like the loss of a loved one, trouble at work, divorce, or financial problems. Other situations might include bad service in a restaurant or heavy traffic when you're in a hurry.

Holistic Wellness - Dealing With Stress Naturally
Happy occasions, like a wedding,
can cause stress
Stress is not, however, just about the "bad" stuff that happens. The birth of a baby, a marriage, a new home, or even the holidays can cause stress. It's all about how we deal with situations.

How to recognize stress

Since we each respond to situations differently, how does one know if they are experiencing stress? Here are some common symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of enthusiasm or energy
  • Muscle tension and/or muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nervousness
  • Stomach problems
  • Changes in eating habits (over- or under- eating)
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes (irritability, depression, sadness, etc.)
  • Trouble remembering or concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless and/or helpless

The important thing to remember is that we all react to pressure differently. The above list is not, by any means, definitive. It is up to each of us to evaluate our response to determine if we are reacting normally or in an unusual manner.

Strategies to naturally deal with stress

If at all possible, leave stressful situations. For example, walk away from an argument or take a break from a particularly uncomfortable business meeting. If traffic is heavy, take an alternate route or visit a park until traffic clears.

Remember the "fight or flight" response and the build up of chemicals in our bodies? Exercise helps remove them and, in fact, helps slow their production. It also is an antidepressant, combats anxiety, and helps us sleep. If you can't manage daily exercise, try for 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week.

Eat foods high in B Vitamins like nuts, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers, beans, molasses, and whole grains. Reduce alcohol, caffeine, sugar and junk food. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.

Have you ever noticed that when you're stressed you breathe quickly and shallowly? Quick, shallow breaths deplete the brain of oxygen. Take five deep breaths to bring your body back to normal. Deep breathing will also improve your mood.

Get Busy
Sometimes we can divert our minds by simply doing something ordinary, like cleaning house, reading, gardening, or cooking. Even watching TV can stop worrisome thoughts.

Talking to a close friend or a trusted family member may help relieve our anxiety. Simply airing the problems we face can minimize their impact on our lives.

Relax both the body and the mind. Try guided meditation or yoga. Take a scented bath. Focus on the positive in your life and list the things you are grateful for. Take a nap. Listen to soothing music or take a walk in nature.

Holistic Wellness - Dealing With Stress Naturally
Laughter is the
best medicine
Laughter tends to relax your whole body. It also increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. And, remember those stress chemicals and hormones? Laughter decreases them while, at the same time, causes the release of endorphins into our system (they are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals). So, watch a comedy, call your funniest friend, or read a funny book. Or simply start laughing ... before you know it, you'll be doubling over with a good belly laugh.

Stress is inevitable. Managing it properly can be the difference between using it as a motivating, learning tool or letting it cause illness.

William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, said this of stress: "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."

How do you manage stress in your life?

Sneak Peek: Have you heard of The People's Movement? Join us next week for an introduction!

The information presented in our holistic living series is not, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical advice.