Simple Steps to Managing Stress
Douglas MacKay, M.D.
Simple Steps to Managing Stress
Work deadlines. Traffic jams. Money woes.
In a world that often seems as though it's moving at the speed of light, it's hard not to feel stressed. Add the hectic pace and demands of the holiday season to the mix, and you have a recipe for stress and anxiety.
Some stress is normal and can even be useful. It can help you finish a 5K run or meet an important deadline. It's when stress takes over the body that it can have a harmful effect. When stressed, our bodies go into the "flight or fight" mode, meaning the same response our body gives when facing down a predator is also produced during "typical" stressful situations, such as driving in heavy traffic or worrying over monthly bills.
To account for the added challenges that stress puts on our body, our adrenal glands react by sending out a variety of chemical messengers, resulting in higher blood pressure, increased heart and respiratory rates, and tense muscles.
These stress-induced effects can be harmful when stress becomes a constant day-to-day battle. While stressful situations aren't entirely avoidable, the key is finding a balance between the good stress and bad stress, and managing your body's responses to each. Try these easy tips to help you manage your stress levels:
Replenish your adrenal gland
The adrenal gland is important because it helps our bodies handle stressful situations. Like the rest of our body, the adrenal gland needs certain nutrients to help keep it healthy and functioning properly. In fact, the highest concentrations of vitamin C and certain B-vitamins are found within the adrenal gland, which means these nutrients are in constant need of replenishment.
In addition, modern scientific research has begun supporting the traditional use of some botanicals for maintaining adrenal gland health and reducing the negative impact stress can have on the body. Some botanical supplements--including Rhodiola rosea, Withania somnifera, Schisandra chinensis, and Siberian ginseng--are categorized as adaptogenic botanicals, and are known to increase resistance to a variety of chemical, biological, and physical stressors..
Get your body (and mind) moving
Did you know 30 minutes on the treadmill, a brisk walk, or a game of basketball can go a long way for managing stress? Physical activity not only distracts you from stressors, but it also energizes your body and helps you release frustration.
Exercise can also decrease stress hormones, and increase endorphins--your body's "happy" chemicals--giving your mood a natural lift. If traditional forms of exercise don't entice you, yoga, Tai chi and other meditation practices are also helpful for stress management because it teaches useful relaxation techniques.
Catch your Zzzz's
We hear it over and over again--get at least eight hours of sleep. While ideal, studies show that many adults struggle to get even six or seven hours of solid sack time. Without enough sleep you're likely to run your body down. However, getting enough sleep will help you face the day ahead with renewed energy and focus, keeping your stress level to a limit.
Some supplements may help promote healthy sleep patterns, including melatonin, which helps regulate the human biological clock; valerian, which has been used as a natural sedative; and 5-HTP (also known as 5-Hydroxytryptophan) which helps the body make serotonin and tryptophan and has been shown to improve the duration and depth of sleep.
Put yourself and your health first
There's no need to be a superhero day in and day out. If you're feeling stretched and are asked to take on an extra responsibility at a school function or the office, just say no (without any guilt)! Running on overdrive will only wear you out and create more stress for you and your immune system.
Help your immune system function at its best by ensuring that you're meeting all of your nutritional requirements. If there are places you may be lacking in your diet, consider taking a multivitamin to fill in the nutritional gaps. Taking care of you first can positively impact how you deal with life's everyday stressors.
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