10 Tips To Manage Stress
You can’t control or prevent stress but you can address how you respond to it and you can help create an environment around and within yourself to better process it. Often stress is only associated with emotions and you should absolutely include tools and habits in your life to manage worry, excessive thinking, fear, anger, frustration and grief due to the very strong mind-body and brain-gut connections. There are other very powerful forms of stress that build and linger in the body that are important to recognize. Extra strain on any of your body systems equals stress in your body on a hormonal level.
Let’s talk about stress.
Stress has become a major buzzword but has the meaning of it been lost? Many have only come to associate it with emotional distress. To understand how and why stress is influencing your body and how it can contribute to health issues it’s important to get back to basics of what stress actually is.
Stress from a healthcare perspective is describing a response. It is a response to the change in demand or an increase of demand on the body/mind from a normal, balanced state. The resulting effects can be on your body, mood or even behavior. A stressor is the thing that initiated the response. An increase or change of demand on the body/mind can be perceived as positive or negative depending on the stressor and the circumstances it is happening in, but either way, it causes a reaction.
You can’t “Just Relax”.
The stress response is an automatic reaction and you can’t just shut it off, take it easy and not worry so much.
Every human comes in contact with stressors so every human experiences stress. The difference is how your body/mind processes this response and how long it has to be in that state. The fight-or-flight response doesn’t just kick in if a bear is chasing you. The body can react dramatically to non-life threatening situations too. Dreading taking the subway at rush hour every day for work, traveling, lack of quality sleep, consistent poor diet laden with damp foods, your environment and excessive exercise are just a few things that can cause stress on the body; taking the focus away from normal functions. If your body is in a chronic state of reacting, it may choose to protect or warn you with symptoms. When stress is long term, your body has to find new ways to operate and it might not operate in the way you would expect or want.
Garden Acupuncture's Tips For Managing Stress:
Oxygenate and Hydrate. Do not look at your phone the second you wake. When you first wake in the morning, take a few cleansing deep breaths. You can even try some breathing exercises such as the 4:7:8 technique. Then drink a full glass of room temperature water. Continue drinking water throughout the day. A good way to get an idea of how much you should be drinking is to go by your body weight. Divide your weight in half and then drink that amount in ounces per day. For instance, if you weigh 100 lbs then drink 50 ounces of water per day. We suggest measuring your water out for a few days so you know what the correct amount of water looks like.
Acknowledge the people you begin your day with. If you live with friends, family, a significant other or a roommate, take the time to say good morning. Welcoming the day with kind words and a hug, kiss or even a high five can set the tone for a more positive day.
Make mealtimes sacred and don’t skip them. Pay attention to how, what and when you eat. Choose healthy options and chew properly! And while you are eating, stay focused on that activity and the company you are with. If you are scrolling through a newsfeed, you are not being mindful of your current action. Don’t miss out on the special benefit of healing, nourishment and connectivity meals and mealtimes provide.
Designate time to absorb news and social media BUT put a cap on it for the day. It is totally ok to have a stopping point. Knowing when to disengage is just as important as engaging. By scheduling time for this activity and creating a boundary you accomplish two things. First, you allow yourself time to participate. And since the time is limited, it might encourage you to be more mindful of what you are consuming. Second, by creating a boundary you can be aware of when you are crossing it. Yes, there will be days where news and viral videos take over, but, it is up to you to balance it out. Make sure to create space in the next day for quiet, calm and relaxation sans screen time.
Get distracted. Sometimes you need to actively redirect your attention to something else in order to give your mind a break. While this should not become the go-to solution every time, it can be a good tool if you are having a difficult time stopping a runaway mind. Watch a funny movie, listen to loud music or even better, get outside and get your body moving! Have a mindfulness coloring book? Break out some crayons and get creative!
Create a bedtime ritual. Whatever your normal bedtime is, two hours prior to that, do not watch tv and do not go on your phone. Commit to this. There is no reason to get your mind racing before you are trying to sleep and the light from phones and televisions disrupt natural sleep patterns. Use this time to take a warm bath, read poetry, listen to soothing music, do more breathing exercises, pick out what you are wearing and pack lunch for the next day…whatever you find relaxing.
Yoga, Meditation, Massage and Acupuncture. These four practices can all help reduce stress and anxiety. Sometimes you need outside intervention. Acupuncture directly can help recalibrate stress hormones in the body through the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis pathway as explained through studies and from a western perspective. But emotions have a deeply rooted place in Traditional Chinese Medicine and how they have a relationship to specific organs and energetic organ systems. This explanation can really turn into a mouthful. We invite you to call us if you want to nerd out about it or come get treated! If you want to get your feet wet with more information about emotions and TCM, read this and this.
Exercise. Ok, we know this is probably not your favorite option but DO IT. Move your body and increase circulation of blood and oxygen and circulate your lymph. THIS WILL HELP you feel better and stay healthy. Don’t have the motivation to go to a gym? No problem. Run up and down the stairs in your house, apartment building or subway station, jump on a mini trampoline in your living room while watching Netflix, blast a terribly fun pop song and dance your heart out for the entire song. Just don't over do it.
Cry, Scream, Sing & Laugh. Let it out. Feeling sad? Let yourself have a good, loud, ugly cry. Getting that bottled up in the chest feeling from being so mad and frustrated? Scream into a pillow! Need a positive boost? Belt out a song! (Yes, singing releases endorphins.) And a good giggle never hurt anybody. Have you heard of this lady, The Laughing Diva? Check her out.
Puppies and Kittens. That’s right. We went there. Animals have a wonderful way of calming us down. They are pure and kind and loyal and just want love and affection. Give your pet some extra snuggles and playtime. Don’t have a furry buddy? I bet one of your friends does. Take a walk together! Or, volunteer at a shelter like Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue.