RELAX, IT’S JUST STRESS!
Things are stressful right now. Many of us are taking on additional responsibilities at work while also taking on responsibilities at home. Add in the troubling global affairs, seasonal challenges like weather, allergies or the recovery from the pandemic and the stress really adds up. Thankfully, the body is pretty resilient and works hard to maintain balance in adversity, but too many stressors for too long takes a toll. If you are feeling exhausted, worn down or just not handling stress as well as usual, it may be time to be proactive in your self-care. The good news is there are some simple stress management techniques that can make a big difference. Here are five simple techniques we often discuss with our clients.
Take a walk.
The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise can reduce levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Research has shown that even moderate walking for twenty minutes will stimulate the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers, and mood elevators. Can’t get out of the house for half an hour? Even a five minute stroll around the house can break the cycle of stress and help us to feel better.
Take a few deep breaths.
Breathwork is a fantastic way to modulate the body’s stress response. A simple technique is to breath in to a count of three and breath out to a count of five or six. Try this four or five times with your eyes closed. Allowing for a longer, easier exhale will move the body, and mind, into a place of calm.
Limit your news consumption.
The twenty-four hour news cycle and quick access through internet and our phones make it easy to get caught up in the drama. In fact, that’s exactly what news stations and websites want from us – constant engagement. But we don’t have to play the game. So budget your news time – half an hour in the morning and evening. Take the rest of your time to listen to music, read a book, call a friend.
Get plenty of rest.
The benefits of a good night’s sleep is well known. Stress can have a huge impact on the quantity and quality of sleep. Several studies have been conducted looking at the connection between stress and sleep. The concept of sleep hygiene (habits engaged in at bedtime) offers a few ideas on how to minimize the effects of stress on sleep:
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Remove electronic devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones from the bedroom.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
Relaxation and breathing techniques.
Consider getting regular bodywork.
Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, Tui Na, and cupping are just a few of the different modalities of bodywork available – each can provide stress relief in a unique way. The key is to find a practitioner that is licensed and well trained. Do some research before booking an appointment with any bodyworker. Ask friends for recommendations, talk to other clients, and certainly let your medical provider know if you are incorporating any complementary therapies into your health regimen.
As acupuncturists, we are a bit biased in our stance on the benefits of this ancient medicine, especially in treating stress. The good news is, there have been numerous studies that have pointed to the power of acupuncture in treating anxiety and stress, and the mounting evidence has led the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to advise its website visitors that “evidence for the use of acupuncture to treat anxiety disorders is becoming stronger.” Those studies have revealed that acupuncture’s needles stimulate the body to release endorphins and flush out cortisol and other stress-related hormones and chemicals. A study conducted at Georgetown University Medical Center showed that acupuncture controlled reactions to stress, while an English study proved that the use of acupuncture in combination with antidepressants provided greater relief for patients than counseling in combination with medication did.
Feel free to reach out to us with any questions?