Monday, September 8, 2008
According to the study done in 2005 by the American Psychological Association almost two-thirds of all visits to the family physician were stress related. That results matches the global statistic which states 3 out of 5 doctor visits are from stress related illness. Stress is also linked to six leading causes of death- heart disease, cancers, lung illness, liver ailments and suicide.
Stress is also linked to over eating, alcohol and drug abuse and sleep disturbances. Increased levels of cortisol and adrenalin from stress can result in a slower thyroid function and decreased immune system function. Simultaneously increasing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In short, stress is as unhealthy as a triple layer cheeseburger and super size fries. We can avoid the fast food but how do we , in this fast paced high demand society avoid stress?
It is easy for me as a health professional to tell a client to eat correctly, whole foods as close to their natural state is possible and to avoid alcohol and junk foods. It is also easy, where I sit, to advise regular vigorous physical activity at least 3x a week. However, some people cannot set enough time aside to exercise at the gym and have little energy after a long stressful day at work to come home and run on a treadmill. You yourself may not have time to cook healthy whole foods and find it mush easier to stop at the fast food place on the way to and from your high paced daily routine. So lets map out some short and realistic tips for releasing daily stress in our life.
Clear Your Mind
At night when you lay your head on your pillow refuse to go over the day events which you have ended. Do not allow your mind to go onto the next days worth of work, bills and stresses. Instead, focus on your breath and your body. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling and allowing your body to slow down. With each inhale picture the much needed oxygen filling the cells of your body. With each exhale picture the negative emotions in the day leaving you as you exhale. Take care not to picture the negative events themselves but just the negative feelings of anxiety, stress, fear and anger. Picture yourself comfortable and happy as you breath in and out. You have time to do this simple activity because you DO go to bed and night and you DO breath.
Count to Ten
How often have we heard this advise? Count to ten before you react, or over react. Think clearly about what you have to do and how you will do it or say it. Allow clear logical thought to enter your mind versus the immediate emotional response you want to release upon the world. Consider if you may be over reacting and if there is a calmer way to handle things. Traffic jams and other seemingly irritating events do not need to cause stress in our life. A 5 minute traffic hold up or a 5 minute wait in a market line will not cause the stock market to crash or a loved one to run away because they just could not wait any longer. Often times we allow our emotional response dictate how we should feel in an event that if we stopped and took 10 tiny seconds to think about we would see it was not as alarming as we originally EMOTIONALLY reacted to.
Eat something healthy
Something IS better than nothing. Grab a handful of almonds, some "orange smiles" or even just an apple. Give your body some of the nutrients back that you took away from it when you could not find your car keys and ran around in a panic looking for them. Picture your engine on full speed when you were panicking and acknowledge the greater force of fuel needed in that moment of the day and the fact you did use vitamins and nutrients just to alleviate the physical response to the emotional stress. Give something back.
Walk for 5 minutes
Physical activity, move your body, even a little. Park 10 spaces further down from where you would normally park. Take the stairs if you normally take the elevator. Take 2 steps at a time if you normally take the stairs. Get up from your office chair and walk down a hall and back. Move, somehow find 5 minutes to move.
Do something nice for someone else
Get coffee for a co-worker, hug your friend, make a call to a relative to cheer them up. Smile at a stranger. Offer a moment of kindness to someone else and you will also reap the benefits of that act of kindness.
These are simple steps that you can do to help release some stress and allow your body a moment of reprieve. Your body is not meant to run at full emotional speed and it does not like it. Keep these things in mind, begin to practice them and create healthy habits to let stress go.