From minor challenges to major crises, stress is part of life. Stress can become overwhelming and take a toll on your well-being. Of course, you can’t always control your circumstances, but you CAN control how you respond to them.
Some of the negative outcomes of stress include:
1. Brain effects: anger, irritability, mental health issues like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, brain fog, headaches
2. Skin concerns: acne, eczema, hair loss, brittle nails, and hair
3. Cardiac effects: high cholesterol, increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased risk of heart attack or stroke
4. Immune system concerns: delayed tissue repair, reduced ability to fight infection or recover from a disease
5. Gut effects: leaky gut, decreased nutrient absorption, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, bloat
6. Reproductive concerns: increased cortisol, hormone imbalance, decreased libido, increased PMS symptoms, decreased sperm production
7. Muscular effects: muscle protein breakdown, muscle tightness, increased inflammation, increased tension
8. Bone and joint concerns: increased inflammation in joints, increased tension, aches, pains, and lower bone density
……AND STILL THERE ARE MANY MORE
As a result, we at MFN talk about stress regularly. It is crucial to have a plan in place to calm your mind and your body. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief. What works for you at home might not be an option when you’re at work or in the community. When you have a variety of stress relief tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to pick a strategy that works best for your current situation.
We can break our tools down into the 3 categories listed below:
- Short term strategies: can be performed anywhere, are free, take little practice to master
- Fast-acting strategies: can be done in the privacy of your own home, provide immediate relief
- Long term solutions: take more practice to master, will become part of your lifestyle
Short-Term Stress-Relief Strategies You Can Do Anywhere
1. Try Guided Imagery: Imagine yourself being in your “happy place.” Simply close your eyes for a minute and walk yourself through a peaceful scene. Think about all the sensory experiences you’d engage in and allow yourself to feel as though you’re really there. After a few minutes, open your eyes and return to the present moment.
2. Meditate: Develop a mantra that you repeat in your mind as you take slow deep breaths. Simply pay attention to what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
3. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation: relax all the muscles in your body, group by group. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths. Then, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes.
4. Focus on Breathing: Focus on your breath or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and brain in just a few minutes.
5. Take a Walk: Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind.
Fast-Acting Stress-Relief Strategies That Work Well at Home
1. Give a hug to a Loved One: Even a 20-second hug can help to relax your entire body and mind.
2. Enjoy Aromatherapy: Go outside and smell the flowers, light a candle, or use a diffuser. Scents are powerful in relaxing the mind.
3. Create Artwork: Draw, paint, color, sing, dance; do something that sparks creativity in you.
Long-Term Stress-Relief Strategies for Lasting Health
1. Eat a Balanced Diet: A poor diet can bring greater reactivity toward stress. Stress eating and reaching for high-fat, high-sugar foods can provide a temporary sense of relief that adds to your long-term stress. Refined carbs, like cookies and potato chips, can cause a spike in blood sugar. When your blood sugar crashes, you might experience more stress and anxiety. Consuming a healthy diet can help you combat stress over the long haul.
2. Make Time for Leisure Activities: Leisure activities can be a wonderful way to relieve stress. Create the time for hobbies, games, or extra fun.
3. Develop a Positive Self-Talk Habit: The way you talk to yourself matters. Positive self-talk can help you develop a healthier outlook. An optimistic and compassionate conversation can help you manage your emotions and take positive action.
4. Express Gratitude: Gratitude helps you recognize all the things you are thankful for. Whether you’re grateful for a sunny day or thankful you arrived at work safely, think about all the good things you have in life.
5. Prioritize Exercise: Physical activity is key to managing stress and improving mental health. There are many options for activities that can reduce your stress. So, try different activities and find something you truly enjoy!
Finding the best stress relief strategies may take some time and experimenting, so go easy on yourself in the process. If any of this strikes a chord with you, click the “Apply Now” button at the top of this page to learn how we can help you manage life’s inevitable ups and downs in a healthy way!
Your Online Dietitian Coach, Ashley Anderson MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, PN1
Your Online Dietitian Coach, Rachel Brown, RD, IBCLC, CDECS, MBA