Can you remember the last time something got your blood racing? Whether it be a car that cut you off, a looming deadline, or an unexpected family emergency. Stress can impact us all, in fact, it would be unrealistic to try and avoid it. And whilst we can’t shy away from it, there are many things that can be done to help manage stress, which is something we are keen to encourage due to the negative impact stress can have on health and healing if it persists for long periods of time. So in this week’s blog and to honour ‘National Stress Awareness Week’, we are talking all things stress. We share what it is, how it impacts your body, and some simple steps you can implement to manage it effectively. What is stress? The human body is designed to respond to stress, it is actually a protective mechanism that keeps us safe, alive, and alert. Can you remember the last time you went for a job interview? You may have had clammy, cold, and shaking palms, you were probably sweating, and felt like you wanted to run away from the situation! That is the stress response in full swing, controlled by your Autonomic Nervous System, also known as your ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response, which impacts your body physically and mentally. In many situations stress is a good thing like in the job interview example. Whilst clammy hands are not ideal, the fact that it made you more alert and ready to deal with the situation ahead was. The issue comes when stress continues for extended periods of time, preventing the body from being able to recover. That’s when the elevated heart rate and breathing can turn into long term high blood pressure for example, or the tension builds in the body resulting in daily headaches. Long term stress not only impacts health, but it can also have a negative impact on other areas such as relationships and work. So, what can be done to help manage stress? If you can’t avoid stress, and there will be times when it goes on for extended periods of time due to life events, we understand you may feel a little helpless, as if you have failed before you have started. But rest assured, there is so much you can do to help your body. Here are 5 steps to help you adapt and manage stress effectively, along with a bonus suggestion at the end: 1. Plan Planning your days can help you feel a sense of control and allow you to identify potential stressful situations. The planning allows you to break looming events down into bite size chunks and ensure that you factor in time for you, having those well needed breaks which will prevent it taking a toll on your health. 2. Breathe Being mindful of how you breathe is key for managing stress, and helping your body become more resilient to it. To help counteract the increased breathing and short, sharp breaths that happen when stressed, we would recommend ‘box breathing’. It’s a technique we may have referenced before, but it’s so effective and the bonus of it is that you can do it anywhere, and without anyone knowing, helping your body move away from the stress response. If you do it proactively each day, it will help you become more resilient so that when a stressful moment comes along, you will be better prepared to deal with it. Here’s what you do: - Take a breath in through your nose for 4 seconds - Hold for 4 seconds - Exhale for 4 seconds - Pause for 4 seconds - Repeat as many times as necessary.
3. Move Intentional movement can help you utilise stress for the good. When you become stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol which accelerates the stress response. The brilliant thing about exercise is that it will use cortisol for fuel, and release feel-good hormones called endorphins in the process. So, whether it be a short walk or a high intensity gym class, try and get moving to break free from the stress. 4. Share with others As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Sometimes confiding in someone can help to take the pressure away, and it also opens up an opportunity to get a different insight and some well needed help. If you feel you can’t share with those around you, there are organisations such as the Samaritans that can offer a non-bias listening ear. 5. Gratitude When times are tough it can be difficult to see the good around. Your brain actually primes you to seek out the negatives and potential threats as a protective mechanism, but unfortunately this can create a vicious circle and exacerbate the stress. A way to counteract this is to think of things you are grateful for and why. It could be as simple as the blue sky because it allows you to feel the warmth of the sun, the glass of clean water that keeps you well, or the people you have around you. Think it, say it out loud, or write it down, but try and incorporate it into your day when you first wake up, and if a stressful event arises, remind yourself of the 3 things. It not only helps to create perspective, but it also trains your brain to look for the positive around you. The 5 steps we have shared take very little time to implement, so we hope you find them beneficial and enjoy adding them to your daily routine. As a bonus suggestion, we would recommend you keep up with your health care regime during the stressful times. As your chiropractor we can’t claim that chiropractic care will take your stress away, but it has been shown to help alleviate tension and the inability to relax1, allowing your body to work at its best during the challenging times. So be sure to keep taking care of yourself and know that we are always here to help. References: 1. Advertising Standards Authority. (2022). Retrieved from Advertising Standards Authority: https://www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/health-chiropractic.html
The content of this blog is for educational purposes and is not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.