November 28, 2014

Whole Body Beautiful: De-stress Yourself to Better Health

 

For many, modern life is full of deadlines, work pressures, family, money challenges, time constraints and daily stresses that our everyday existence brings on.

Some stress, in small doses, is actually beneficial. It can motivate you, helps you perform, and gets the body moving at times when it is really needed.

But, when our bodies are constantly running on emergency mode, it triggers a “fight-or-flight” response and when this is on, more often than not, it starts to do more harm than good.

Stress is a normal physical response and our bodies are amazing in the fact that we are wired to protect ourselves against threats from predators, assailants and life-threatening situations. When we start to sense danger, an imbalance, or a threat—real or imagined—our bodies kick into a stress response mode. When this response is triggered, it sets off an alarm to increase heart rate, boost blood pressure and flood the body with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol (a steroid hormone released by your adrenals).

This alters our immune system, suppresses our digestive system, reproductive system and growth process. This built-in alarm system also communicates with our brain that controls mood, motivation and fear. These hormones set up the body for action because in a real fight-or-flight situation, all this would be needed in order to help us survive. These physical changes increase speed, strength, focus and reaction time, all in preparation for any upcoming danger ahead.

For most of us, we do not need to respond to such danger. There isn’t that ­­w­ooly mammoth or sabre-tooth tiger about to pounce but, maybe, a car coming too close as you cross the street, a work deadline, a 10-K race, or even lack of sleep. These continuous stresses keep our response system at a high level where stress hormones start doing damage to your body.

Wondering if your stress response levels have been too high? Look for warning signs in these symptoms. (Source: Healthguide.org)

Emotional Symptoms

• Moodiness

• Irritability or short temper

• Agitation, inability to relax

• Feeling overwhelmed

• Sense of loneliness and isolation

• Depression or general unhappiness

Behavioral Symptoms

• Eating more or eating less

• Sleeping too much or too little

• Isolating yourself from others

•Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities

• Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax

• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

Cognitive Symptoms

• Memory problems

• Inability to concentrate

• Poor judgment

• Seeing only the negative

• Anxious or racing thoughts

• Constant worrying

Physical Symptoms

• Aches and pains

• Diarrhea or constipation

• Nausea, dizziness

• Chest pain, rapid heartbeat

• Loss of sex drive

• Frequent colds

As you learn how to identify stress and what triggers your response in stressful situations, good for you! Awareness is key and now that you know a few of the signs, practice the following techniques to help you deal with your stress and its effects.

Eat a Healthy Diet—Excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol can affect the stress that is put on the body. Lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fluids, and a well balanced diet can help.

Exercise Regularly—This will reduce your amount of stress and actually help prevent it. Exercise keeps those good hormones flowing by creating endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters that are a powerful tool in helping reduce your stress levels as well as your mood. Exercise also strengthens your heart, increases your energy levels, lowers blood pressure and many more health benefits to help you handle stress more efficiently.

Simplify Your Life—Cut out all the small stuff that tends to clutter your day (and your life).

Simplify your routines, your commitments and excess “to do’s.” Try and edit your day to what is really important, have a few more unscheduled minutes or hours in the day, and make sure you are enjoying what you are doing.

Practice Relaxation Techniques—Yoga, meditation, visualization techniques, just a few minutes of visualizing a peaceful scene, listening to calm music, a few stretches, or deep breathing, have proven to be a quick de-stressor.

Have a Laugh—Go out and socialize and have a few laughs. Laughter really is the best medicine. It has been proven to lower blood pressure, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and fire some more of those happy hormones.

There are so many things we can do in the day to help us de-stress but most important is to recognize stress before it happens. What patterns do we fall into? What people tend to set us off? What can we cut out of our day that really doesn't need to be there? With your new-found awareness and some new techniques, you will lessen your stress and be healthier, happier and much more balanced.

Breathe! ☺ Ahhhhhh!

Detox/De-stress Bath Soak

2 cups baking soda

2 cups Epson® salts

10 drops of your favorite essential oil. Add all ingredients to warm bath water and soak for 20 minutes. Relax!

Lisa Fallon Mindel HHP, AADP is a qualified holistic health and nutrition Coach as well as a model and triathlete. She counsels people on how to effetively reach their health, nutrition and wellness goals. With her personalized step-by-step program and support, reaching goals is enjoyable and lifelong. For more information, go to Wholebodybeautiful.com .