Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life. Sometimes
stress can be good, like when it helps you to develop better coping skills to
manage difficult situations. But, when stress is prolonged, too severe,
or it interferes with your daily activities, it can make you feel overwhelmed
and out of control.
It can also negatively impact your mind and body. Stress that’s left
unchecked can contribute to many health problems: high blood pressure,
obesity, anxiety/depression, and diabetes. If you have symptoms of stress—headache,
muscle pain or tension, chest pain, lack of motivation or focus, irritability,
fatigue, upset stomach, and sleep problems—taking steps to manage
it can make you feel better and reduce your chances of acquiring one of
August 15 is
National Relaxation Day, the perfect time to slow down, take a break, and unwind. Need to relax
and recharge? Consider one of these relaxation and stress management activities
for National Relaxation Day and every day:
Stretch It Out
Did you know that stress restricts blood flow, causing tension in your
muscles and lower back? By stretching, you stimulate the receptors in
your nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones, such
as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates production of endorphins,
which are chemicals akin to the body’s natural painkillers and mood
elevators. Almost any type of exercise will help to alleviate stress,
but the added meditation and controlled breathing coupled with gentle
muscle stretching of
yoga is a great stress reducer.
Next time you’re feeling worse for wear, drop by a class at
ProMotion Fitness+. Each of our instructors bring a unique approach to their classes and
create a safe, sacred space for you to explore your mind and body. We
offer several classes—from senior yoga, prenatal yoga, and gentle
yoga, to yoga for cancer and guided relaxation and meditation using iRest
Get all the details.
Get Offline & Go Outside
Studies have shown the emotional and physiological benefits of direct
visual and physical access to nature.
In one study, the
National Institutes of Health found that visiting natural environments (wilderness-type settings or
a municipal park, for example) reduce both physical and psychological
stress levels. Participants of the study who visited a natural environment
reported significantly lower levels of stress compared to their counterparts
who visited urban outdoor settings or indoor exercise facilities.
Instead of de-stressing with an hour of TV or endless scrolling through
social media, go for a walk, take a relaxing hike at a local park, or
eat lunch outside. Scenes of nature will gently capture your attention,
rather than consuming or overwhelming it, and calm your nerves.
Stay Social, Find Support
When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it’s easy to
want to isolate yourself. Don’t. We’re social animals, and
our biological, psychological, and social makeup thrive in collaborative
environments. Some studies have shown that the
impact of isolation on health and mortality is similar to those of the
risk factors of smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure. Instead of secluding yourself, spend time with loved ones. Plan a fun
activity with your children or schedule a coffee date with an old friend
you haven’t seen in years. Staying connected with those you love
is a great way to receive emotional support and remind yourself of what’s
important in life.
If you need someone to talk to or are struggling to cope with stress,
consider reaching out to a health professional. You don’t have to
navigate it alone.
Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to alleviate
stress. The way you breathe affects your whole body. Slow, deep, even
breaths send a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The air coming
in through your nose fully fills your lungs and causes your lower belly
to rise. All of the negative symptoms of stress (increased heart rate,
fast breathing, and high blood pressure) decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.
4-7-8 method (it works for children, too) or
diaphragmatic breathing a shot. Try out a few different techniques to see which ones work best
for you. Then, practice, practice, practice. Find a quiet place to comfortably
sit or lie down. Try to practice once or twice a day for at least 10-20
minutes. This will help you to create a routine and establish a habit
for your body each time you feel stressed.
Meditate or Practice Mindfulness
Meditation and mindful thought help the mind and body to relax and focus.
With practice, both can help you release negative emotions that may cause
the body physical stress. Also, meditation and mindfulness can improve
sleep, mood, and pain. These techniques are meant to be practiced regularly.
With each practice, you’ll feel a greater sense of control over
your stress and counter feelings of helplessness or tension with mental
awareness and clarity.
James M Stockman Cancer Institute’s integrative services include mindfulness and meditation. Our provider, Anthony Dominic Chielli,
has a Palouse Mindfulness: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Certificate
of Completion and a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus
on neuroscience and meditation research. You can
learn more here.
If you’re concerned that your symptoms are continuing and/or you
can’t control your stress, talk to your doctor. Your healthcare
provider will check for potential causes and refer you to the appropriate
specialist/s as needed.