By Cecilia Williams
The best response to the onslaught of stress is: nip it in the bud, using both your mind and body.
How does one handle stress? In a previous article, “Understanding Stress” by our chiropractor Dr. Long Van, he discussed the types of stress and how to identify them, in order to be able to understand fully what malady it is that we’re facing—a malady that afflicts everybody without exception. Stress, when left unchecked, can lead to all kinds of illnesses. So, the best response to the onslaught of stress is: nip it in the bud, using both your mind and body.
How exactly do we do that? Below is a checklist of things to do when you begin notice you are stressing.
1. Breathe deeply. Deep abdominal breathing can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.1 It puts you in a relaxed state, which then helps you navigate through your sources of stress with more calm.
2. Spend time with nature. Do you have a beautiful garden? Is there a nice nature walk or park close to where you live? Go to places where nature abounds. Or simply, buy yourself a couple of plants and flowers. Don’t flowers always make you smile—never mind if you’re allergic to pollen? Have you noticed how the sound of flowing water relaxes you? Trees, flowers, greenery, bodies of water, and the good brown earth helps reduce “blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.” 2
3. Move. Physical activity helps the body “metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.”3 Walk. Dance. Exercise. The more physical activities you have and the more vigorous they are, the more your body calls for sleep, and so you will get more quality sleep. Hugging, kissing, and having sex are also in this category. Not only do they make you feel good, they are physical activities that help “lower stress by releasing oxytocin and lowering blood pressure.” 4
4. Eat healthy. If you end up food binging, you might as well binge on healthy food— nuts, fruits, vegetables. You’re allowed some chocolates if they’re dark chocolates. No sugar, or less sugar in the diet is always best. Studies have shown that sugar exacerbates mood disorders and heightens anxiety. You might also consider taking supplements. Lemon balm, Omega-3 fatty acids, the Ashwagandha herb, green tea Valerian root and Kava-kava are known to help reduce stress and anxiety, with the latter two also acting as sleep aid. 5
5. Avoid stimulants and depressants such as alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes for the obvious reasons. You don’t want to boost or put more energy into your negative feelings.
6. Sleep. You might say you’re too stressed out to sleep. You have so many internal conversations going on in your mind you just can’t sleep. Some of the proven ways to get a good sleep are having the following before sleeping:
a) a warm bath
b) a glass of milk
c) a nice—not intense—book to read. Stay away from television or computer or any wired devices at least an hour before sleep. The light and the electromagnetic radiation emitted from these devices “disrupts the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.”6 Likewise, various digital content encourages stress response.
1. Talk to someone. When you’re venting to someone, you are releasing all that stocked and stuck up energy, thoughts, and feelings inside you. Not only can talking to someone bring release and relief, it can also bring realizations and resolutions.
2. Write it down. So, your friend may not be readily available for a talk. Then grab a piece of paper and write all your thoughts and feelings down. The sensation may not be the same as talking to someone, but this activity can lead to the same four Rs: release, relief, realization, resolution. Writing down your thoughts helps you think through things, and process your experience. If an unsolved problem is causing your stress, for example, then you can write down all the possible solutions to your problem.
3. Give affirmations to yourself—quietly or loudly. For example, while taking a shower, you might want to utter these phrases: “I am calm and beautiful.” “Today will be a wonderful day.” “I will get my work done and it will be lovely.” “I will feel peaceful and focused.”
4. Prioritize. A major source of stress is thinking you have too many things to do in too little time.
a) Create a list of the things you NEED to do. Arrange this list according to priority (from urgent to least urgent). Place them in your calendar—putting the “urgent” things first.
b) Create a list of the things you WANT to do. Arrange this list according to priority (from most wanted to least wanted). Then place them in your calendar—putting the “most wanted” things first.
c) Create a list of things you DON’T REALLY WANT OR NEED to do but for some unknown reason you feel that you have to do them. Tell the people concerned that you won’t be able to do them, and then throw this list out.
Cross out each item in your checklist as they get done. Notice that it is important to combine both NEED & WANT. For every work or task (need), there must be leisure (want). This allows for a balanced lifestyle.
5. Meditate or Pray. Meditation helps you free your mind of any thought, and Prayer helps you focus on good wishes. Scented candles, aromatherapy, and slow instrumental music help bring you into a state of calm, meditation, or prayer.
1 “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response,” Harvard Health Publishing
2 “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?,” University of Minnesota
3 “Dealing with Stress – Ten Tips,” Skills You Need
4 “16 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety,” Healthline
5 “16 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety,” Healthline
6 “Wired and tired: why parents should take technology out of their kid’s bedroom,” The Conversation