Your health and stress: What you can do

It’s not uncommon to have some awareness of the impact of stress on health, yet not really know what to do about it.

There are, in fact, several things we can do within our daily lives to reduce stress and, therefore, create a more balanced and well life.  It is also intriguing that there are some favorable outcomes from certain levels of stress which I’ll highlight further in this post.

I do want to point out that when I’m talking about reducing stress, I am referring to “adverse” stress.  In layman’s terms, this could be considered the “bad” stress.

Self-care is one of the most basic approaches to stress management.

Yep, it’s actually rather simple.  Take care of yourself in a holistic manner and you can pretty much bet on less physical, mental, and emotional stress.

What does that mean???

At a base level, I am talking about healthfulness in terms of food and diet, physical activity, conditioning the mind, relationships, spiritual or connection to purpose, and engagement with finances.  Some people may recognize this as the dimensions of wellness.

Thinking more comprehensively is when we get to pull it all together in a way that brings us balance despite the various ebbs and flows we will encounter.  Furthermore, recognizing that this will take a proactive approach to how we go about life and respond to circumstances as they arise.

For a few examples of specific self-care practices, be sure to check out this article from Very Well Mind, 5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life.

Bottomline; prioritize the care of your health and overall wellness to also reduce the likelihood of heightened, chronic adverse stress.

If you are looking for a therapeutically oriented approach with notable evidence to back it up, then Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is likely for you.  This may also fall under Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

The term mindfulness may seem a little elusive.  I have seen it explained as anything from “relaxing the mind” to something such as “openness to experience with grounding in the body” which can likely have a wild range of interpretations for meaning.

A textbook definition hones in on self-awareness and recognition for how one responds to circumstances while in the specific moment(s) in which they arise.

In research, which mostly falls under Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in fields such as psychology,  we have observed that certain shifts in the mindset paired with an emphasis on practicing self-compassion have been positively correlated to stress reduction.  Studies have also shown compelling information with regards to a reduction in feelings of “burn out”.

Furthermore, the reduction of adverse stress in our daily lives has been considered with regards to the quality of life factors, such as productivity, health outcomes, leisure and social interactions, and certain socio-economic aspects.

Meanwhile, meditation practices have been around for centuries and are often relied upon for the management of stress.  In fact, if you run a web search on mindfulness or self-care for that matter, many of the results for exercises to complete will include meditation as a suggestion.

With a significant emphasis on breathwork, meditative practices are considered mind-body therapies.  Breathing practices can help disengage the brain from negative responses, such as mind racing, and bring a greater sense of focus.

Furthermore, there is a connection with breathing patterns to the nervous system.  Approaches considerate of this, such as meditation exercises, are thought to relax the nervous system.  This can help bring the body out of a heightened response state and, therefore, reduce excess stress response as well as other respective adverse effects such as consequences to the immune system.

Studies of brain mechanisms and meditation are emerging, but we are seeing much more integration of meditation into both professional and social settings centered on wellness or well-being and certain clinical care settings.

Finally, a somewhat unique, emerging option is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  Admittedly, when I first started hearing hype about this approach, I was a bit skeptic.  However, when I finally did the research, I found it compelling.  The approach is of particular interest when chronic emotional stress or feelings of anxiety are present.  This Healthline article, What is EFT Tapping, provides a succinct overview.

Now on to the benefits of a little stress!

There is such a thing as “good” stress.  Eustress is the type that energizes us, such as that the comes from various exhilarating experiences.

Also, moderate levels of stress, in our day-to-day lives can actually help us to build resilience, which is the ability to overcome obstacles.  This article in Time, How Some Stress Can Actually Be Good For You, talks to a few experts in psychology about this.  They also point out benefits to motivation, social bonding, and the recognition of purpose in life.

Knowledge of this fact alone can actually be empowering in itself.  It can help us put into perspective how we respond to things and, when things feel a little out of hand, the methodologies detailed above can come in handy!

Want to learn a little more about what to actually do in your life AND come away with a personalized action plan???  Consider joining us for a virtual workshop.  Sign up HERE.

Photo credit:  Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

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