Stress-Busting Strategies to Get You to Super Health
Stress is a universal phenomenon that affects all human beings in some way, shape or form. At some level, everyone is dealing with stress. It is the body’s natural response to changes or any taxing life demand put on the mind and body. Historically speaking, the father of stress research Hans Selye said that our bodies are designed to efficiently respond to different types of stress that our prehistoric ancestors experienced for hunting and gathering food, as opposed to the types of stress we face today in our contemporary, technological society with incoming text messages, cell phones ringing, radios blasting, the stimuli from movies, music, and video games.
DIFFERENT STAGES OF STRESS
The alarm stage – Blood flow is sent to the skeletal muscles and brain and directed away from the digestive organs and immune system. Senses are heightened, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing speed up. This physiological response allows us to react quickly to any threats and resolve them.
The adaptation stage – In other types of stresses, the problem cannot be immediately resolved and the body goes into an adaptation phase where it continues to battle the “stress” but not as labor intensive as the alarm stage.
The exhaustion stage – If the source of the stress continues to persist, the body will enter into an exhaustion phase and in some cases, this can lead to irreversible stress-related health disorders such as high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, kidney disease, arthritis, allergic reactions, and even impair learning and memory.
STRESS: THE GOOD AND THE BAD
We should be aware of the kind of stress we are dealing with on a regular basis and how it can impact our overall health. Stress is not created equal and isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, positive stress, called eustress, is short-lived, provides a feeling of excitement and motivation and is perceived as something within our coping abilities such as getting married, winning an award, performing in a concert, playing in a sports game, going on vacation, etc.
The negative stress that we deal with is called distress, which is often associated with something that feels unpleasant and causes anxiety or concern. It may be either short-lived or long-lived and can lead to mental and/ or physical problems down the road. However, in acute situations, distress can serve to save our life in a threatening environment, or it can be a chronic stress of being stuck in a job that is unpleasant, relationship problems with a significant other or family members, coping with an injury, or dealing with a chronic disease.
THE 4-PART SUPER HEALTH EQUATION TO BEAT THE STRESS
If you look at it from the vantage point of what I call the Four components of obtaining super health: eat, exercise, sleep, and think well, you will see that keeping these areas in check and balance is the key to minimizing the harmful effects of stress.
Eat well – When people are busy and feeling stressed, they typically experience fatigue and may turn to unhealthy, comforting food choices laden with sugar and fat, as well as consume caffeinated beverage. If you find yourself in this position, begin to cut down on these products as they can increase anxiety and a feeling of being on edge. Rather, increase water intake and consume foods of high nutritional value with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fibers such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products.
Exercise well – Physical activity is a great stress reducer and dedicating a minimum of 30 minutes a day to some form of physical activity produces endorphins which are natural painkillers that help reduce stress.
Sleep well – Exercise, in turn, helps improve a person’s ability to sleep, which is one of the most important things that a person can do to lower overall stress levels. Without a good 7-8 hours of sleep a day, thinking becomes impaired to a certain degree.
Think well – Your thoughts are the foundation of your wellbeing and overall health. Dedicating time to some form of meditation early in your day is a great way to set the tone for the entire day. This could be as simple as setting the alarm clock 10 minutes before you normally get up and engage in guided meditation or simply visualizing your perfect day. Start by focusing on diaphragmatic breathing exercises by doing ten cycles of inhaling and exhaling and count 1 to10.
The key point here is to find a time in the day that is best for you to engage in mindful practices such as:
- Tai Chi
- EFT tapping
- Getting in nature
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Taking a daily walk
- Playing with a pet
- Listening to relaxing music
- Watching something funny
- Doing creative therapy through stress relief coloring and drawing books.
If you would like to receive Doug’s manual The Happiness Formula: 30 Days to Finding You and Start Living the Life You Imagine, e-mail him at: [email protected] For more information on empowering you and your child, check out Doug’s official website: www.douglashaddad.com.
Douglas Haddad, is a public school teacher, nutritionist and the author of parenting/child guidance book Save Your Kids. ..Now! The Revolutionary Guide To Helping Youth Conquer Today’s Challenges and co-author of Top Ten Tips For Tip Top Shape: Super Health Programs For All Professional Fields. www.douglashaddad.com
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2016 Magazine