What to Do for Stress Overload - Part 2

If you read our previous blog and began implementing some of the first 7 suggestions for ways to reduce your stress, you may already be on your way to feeling more relaxed.  In the first 7 tips we suggested: Get away regularly, develop your favorite hobby, read 15 minutes per day, engage in Expressive Writing, share a belly laugh with someone, use Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and use aromatherapy.

Here are 7 more tips for getting out from under stress overload.

8.  Engage in breathing exercises. The more stressed you are, the more rapid your breathing will be. In a genuine “fight of flight” situation, the stress hormone cortisol is intended to help the body respond with fast escape or self-defense. But when no burst of activity burns off the hormones, they can cause serious health problems over time. Regularly practice inhaling for about 4 seconds – taking in enough air to lift the chest and abdomen – hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat 10 times. This simple exercise has been shown to lower cortisol levels in the blood, almost instantly reducing stress and anxiety.

9.  Actively practice your faith and engage in a church community. For many of us, this is a pivotal point in our battle against stress. If you are living your life believing that you must be in charge of, and responsible for, everything and everyone in your sphere of influence, you will be crushed under the load. Being firmly connected to God will allow you to set your burdens down and trust that strength beyond your own can handle what you can’t. Humans are multi-dimensional beings, with body, mind and spirit all requiring nourishment in order to manage stress, and attending services or meetings that build your spiritual strength will prove to be an effective weapon against stress overload. Don’t just attend church and dash out the minute the pastor says, “Amen.” Participate in humanitarian outreach efforts, attend social events, and make friends. Bottom line is: Exercising one’s faith has been proven to reduce stress.

10. Take a long, hot shower or a relaxing herbal bath. We often take for granted that our morning routine includes hitting Snooze once or twice, chugging coffee, showering just long enough to strip away yesterday’s hair products, dressing in a flash and heading out the door. It’s stressful just thinking about it! But never underestimate the stress-relieving effects of hot water and a few minutes of solitude. To maximize the effect, see #7 from our last blog and use an aromatherapy bath oil or candle to create a spa-like atmosphere. For you busy moms, one important detail is to lock the bathroom door!

11. Get a therapeutic massage. Studies show that massage can be beneficial for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension, which often occur together. It can be extremely effective in helping you feel relaxed and re-energized. Massage can improve symptoms of stress such as insomnia, muscle tension, headaches and anxiety. If you have health concerns, check with your doctor if you have a bleeding disorder or blood clots, brittle bones or fractures of any kind, or if you take blood-thinning medication. These conditions may make it necessary to reduce pressure during massage or skip this method of stress reduction.

12. Take 5-Minute Vacations. This can be done somewhat literally, or in your imagination. When you begin to feel your muscles tense, if possible, step away from what you are doing and take a brisk 5-minute walk outside. Nature is an effective stress-reducer. But if that isn’t possible, try to find a quiet place to take a few minutes to imagine yourself in a delightful place, doing something relaxing. Imagine yourself on a beach, with warm sand, lapping waves and salty air. Or visualize a forest path with rustling leaves and the smell of bacon cooking over a campfire. Whatever your idea of the perfect vacation is, let your mind take you there for a few minutes.

13. Give and receive hugs and kisses. Become “the hugger” in your family and share the stress relief with others. Affection is shown to lower blood pressure and release chemicals that ease hormones associated with stress, like cortisol. If you aren’t around people, spending time with a pet can be effective as well. Petting a dog or other pet can provide the physical touch that soothes and relaxes you.

14. Chew gum. Studies show that it’s a great way to lower cortisol levels!

I hope these suggestions will help you deal with the stresses you face from day to day. None of us can prevent or avoid stress completely, but we can practice some simple ways to keep it from overwhelming and overloading us.

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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