It seems like every month there is a new study coming out telling us how bad stress is for our health. And there is no denying that it is. Stress can not only weaken your immune system, but it can literally shave years off your life.
But you are not at the mercy of stress. While it is true that stress is impossible to avoid, you do have a choice in how you respond. Your response to stress determines its effect on your health.
Try implementing these practices as a way to lower your body’s response to stress.
Breathe. Yes, it really does work. Taking long deep breaths helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest & digest” part of the nervous system. When you feel yourself becoming stressed, stop and take 10 long, deep breaths.
Go to Your Happy Place. Picture a time or a place that brings feelings of happiness. Take a moment to really feel that happiness and explore every sensation you’ve experienced there. What were the smells you remember? Was it warm or was there a light breeze? Really enjoy this place in your imagination and allow yourself to travel there the next time you find yourself feeling stressed. It can help you relax and bring perspective to the situation.
Meditate. You do not need to practice yoga or even have a mat. Just close your eyes for 5-10 minutes daily and focus on your breath. Feel yourself inhaling and exhaling completely. Relax in your chair and let yourself spend a few minutes away from whatever is bringing you stress.
Be Present. Take a moment to look around you and without judgement, take it all in. This is the practice of mindfulness. Being present in moment can help decrease anxiety, stress and depression. Try to spend at least 5 minutes a day just observing the life that surrounds you.
Move Your Body. Even if it is a walk around the office. Movement will allow you to release tension from the body, increase oxygen to your brain and counter what that nasty stress hormone, cortisol, is doing to your body.
Be Grateful. Bring your life into perspective and recognize all that you have to be grateful for. You can start a gratitude journal and pull it out when life gets tough or you can simply reflect quietly to yourself. When you feel the tension build, take just a moment to pause and reflect on all you have to be grateful for.How d0 you reduce your stress today? Share with us. We’d love to hear.
Dr. Jolene Brighten is a Naturopathic physician licensed in the state of California. She practices holistic integrative family medicine in Oakland and also meets with patients remotely who live outside the Bay Area. Dr. Brighten is passionate about treating the whole person and working with patients to create an effective and manageable individualized treatment plan. Please contact Dr. Brighten for a complimentary 10 minute phone visit.