At FDNthrive, we know that the top source of all chronic illnesses is stress. And stress is high for the majority of people. And yet most people don’t have a regular stress management routine and spend little time doing things to reduce stress. They simply are unaware that not working to reduce stress each day is contributing to chronic illness. With FDNthrive, one of the most important elements in the holistic protocol we use with clients is stress management. You simply cannot get well if stress remains at chronic levels.
Chronic stress causes symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, hormone imbalances, digestive problems, insomnia, sleep problems, frequent colds and flu, loss of libido, pain, heart palpitations, and more! And when left unchecked, this stress WILL become a disease in the body.
But, there are things that you can do each day that can help to reduce stress levels so that you can be healthier!
Take some deep breaths!
When a person is stressed, or deeply focused on a task, they hold their breath and forget to breathe. Most people have no idea that this is even happening. Holding the breath reduces oxygen levels and that creates stress in the body. But getting more oxygen helps to relax the body. Taking time throughout the day to do some gentle, deep breathing, can reduce stress quickly. The best part about deep breathing for stress reduction is that you can do it anywhere! Taking time to breathe deeply for 1-2 minutes throughout your day can significantly help you to reduce stress!
Here’s a simple two-minute breathing exercise, that reduces stress easily:
Inhale, slowly and gently for a count of four seconds. Then hold that breath for a count of four seconds. Exhale the breath slowly for a count of 8 seconds. That’s it!
Reducing stress doesn’t have to take a lot of time or be difficult. Deep breathing exercises like this one are one of the fastest ways to let go of stress and tension. Many physicians, prescribe deep breathing exercises to patients to help eliminate stress. Taking the time to slow your breath down and breathe deeply and fully will go a long way to eliminate the negative effects of stress.
Have a good laugh
Laughter is a powerful stress reliever. When you laugh, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good. Laughing regularly helps to lower stress hormone levels as well as lowering blood pressure. It is great for heart health and even helps to improve your immune system function! Laughing as much as you can throughout the day will lower your stress levels, so find some great funny videos online, watch a funny movie or play some games with family and friends and have a good laugh!
Stop watching the news!
There’s no denying that we live in a stressful time. With pandemics, violence, natural disasters, accidents, and the current political climate, there is plenty going on to increase stress. But people who watch the news regularly tend to experience higher levels of stress. News channels live for ratings. Negative news gets higher ratings than lighter, “feel good” stories. Because of this, most news channels, even your local nightly news, will have a negative focus. That is what draws viewers and keeps their broadcast going. Watching the news regularly can increase fear, anxiety, and stress! Saying no to too much news can reduce stress levels significantly.
Does this mean you shouldn’t keep up with what is going on in the world? No. You can scroll through news stories once or twice a day and be informed. And you can do this without having the news on for hours a day.
Take a break from technology
Technology is everywhere! We are surrounded by technology 24/7. Because of that many people connect to their phones or other gadgets more often than is healthy. Heavy smartphone use has been linked to sleep disorders and depression. Mental health issues are higher in those who are constantly accessible via their cell phones. It is important to take a regular break from technology to reduce stress. Do a self-assessment about how often you are connected to your smartphone, laptop, tablet, television, or other technology.
Ask yourself how often you scroll through social media or check emails or text messages. See how often you spend time binge-watching TV shows. Move away from the screens and do something else for a while. If you use your phone for work, set boundaries about the hours you will check work-related emails and social media. If possible, find time throughout the day to take short breaks from technology to help reduce stress. Once or twice a month, spend a full day away from technology. Go and read a book, work in a garden, get out in nature for the day or find a craft to do. All of these activities get you away from the over-stimulation of technology and give your brain a break from all of the external stimulation.
Move your body
Getting regular exercise and moving your body daily is important for good health. But it is a great way to not only help you to physically be healthier but to reduce stress as well. Exercising releases endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. It also lowers levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Getting regular exercise may help you to sleep better as well, which can reduce stress even further. Even a 10-minute walk can help to lower stress levels. But getting exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week is optimal.
Turn on some soothing sounds
Music strongly connects to our emotions. Have you ever noticed the music that often plays in the background of a movie during pivotal scenes? The movie studios do that because they know that having that music support the action onscreen helps to tap into the audience’s emotions. And that makes the scene more powerful. Without the music there, that movie would be far less interesting. Knowing how powerful music is for driving moods can also benefit you when it comes to stress relief. Turn on some relaxing, soft instrumental music. Classical, jazz, new age, all can help to reduce stress. Music that is too loud can increase stress levels. Intense noise overstimulates the mind and creates stress in the body. But soft music can help to soothe and relax the brain and calm the nervous system.
Meditating has been practiced for thousands of years and is a simple way to reduce stress. When meditating, the combination of deep breathing and removing the brain from almost all external stimulation can significantly reduce stress levels. It helps to wipe away an overload of information that causes stress in the brain, in as little as 10 minutes a day. One of the simplest ways to meditate is to find a quiet space, sit comfortably and simply focus on your breathing for 10 minutes. If other thoughts go through your mind, acknowledge them and let them pass.
Spend some time outdoors
Have you ever spent a day out in nature and found yourself sleeping very well that night? Spending time out in nature is a great way to reduce stress levels! Connecting to nature has been shown to calm the nervous system. When you are outdoors, you get natural vitamin D from the sun. This vitamin helps the body to function more effectively and is vital for well-being. Being outside encourages you to get away from technology and unplug for a while. It reduces the amount of external stimulation on the brain and allows it to recharge. Going for a walk in the woods, or spending time gardening has been shown to lower cortisol, the stress hormone, and being in the fresh air has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Set healthy boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries isn’t the easiest thing to do. Many people struggle to say no when others ask them to do things. Others struggle with communicating their needs to those around them. Saying no or speaking up for themselves makes them feel guilty, and so often they will agree to do something, even if they are already overwhelmed. But learning to set healthy boundaries and learning to say no cannot only be empowering but can significantly reduce stress. Do you need to set boundaries with family or friends? What about your job? Take a look at the things you agree to do, but don’t want to. Check-in with yourself to see where you may be feeling resentful of people asking too much of you. And make the changes you need to make to set the boundaries you need to set so that you feel less stressed!
Get more sleep
Most adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night to fully recharge their batteries and function optimally. If you sacrifice sleep to try and get more done in the day, you may be increasing stress. If you get too little sleep, you may find yourself feeling irritable, overwhelmed, and lack the motivation to get things done. You may also eat more sugar, caffeine, and highly processed carbs and be tempted to skip exercise…all things which can increase stress on the body. So, make sleep a priority to reduce stress.
It is vital for your health that you put more importance on managing stress. You must make time for stress relief in order to be healthy. When you do, it not only benefits your health, but you will get more done each day, and you will feel better too!
What if I’m already having symptoms because of stress?
We have good news for you! You CAN reverse the negative impacts of stress on your body! It does mean making some lifestyle changes that can help lower stress. And that will require some work from you. Your body knows how to heal itself. And it wants to be well. It just needs the right tools to help it rebuild its health.
FDNthrive practitioners can help! We have tools that can help you stop guessing what will help you find relief. And we give you targeted solutions to help correct the imbalances that have occurred as the result of chronic stress.