Stress is a common human experience, and it’s not always a bad thing. The stress you feel when giving a big speech, or when being chased by a lion, is there by design. It’s there to help you succeed.
However, chronic levels of stress can be problematic. Research has shown that stress can affect the way our bodies process pain signals. There are many hormones that are released when we experience this type of stress, and these hormones are what can lead to over-activation of the nervous system and amplification of pain signals.
Increased stress can also lead to increased tension through our muscular system. We’ve all experienced having our shoulders shrugged up toward our ears without even knowing it. Because of this, an increase in stress not only leads to increases in pain, but also limitations in functional movement.
Below are a few strategies that you can implement TODAY to better manage your stress.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation. Try this out:
- Find a safe and quiet space
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Close your eyes
- Begin focusing on your breath
- Focus on each inhale and exhale
- Your mind WILL inevitably begin to wonder. Don’t worry, this is normal.
- Simply bring your awareness back to your breath.
- Your mind will begin to wonder again. Don’t worry, this is normal.
- Just bring your awareness back to your breath.
- Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes and dedicate those 5 minutes to working through what was described above.
- This can seem very hard and uncomfortable. Try not to place judgment on how well you’re able to perform the above. Just simply do it.
- Exercise regularly
- If you’re already a regular exerciser, then keep doing your thing. If you’re not, then there’s no better time to start than now:
- Step 1, sit down and think about why you are not already participating in regular exercise. For many people, these barriers include not having enough time, not having enough motivation, or not knowing how or where to begin.
- Step 2, take out your personal calendar and block off one hour of your time. Dedicate this hour to confronting your particular barrier from step one.
- If your barrier is “not having enough time”, then spend this hour identifying what you can trim from your day to allow for more physical activity. I promise you, you can find the time. There are few things more than giving back to your body through exercise.
- If your barrier is “lack of motivation”, then you just successfully blocked off a time for yourself to move. Hold yourself accountable to this “date” with yourself.
- If your barrier is “not knowing how or where to begin”, then use this hour to consult with a personal trainer or physical therapist. Here, you can further discuss your goals and find the guidance to take your first step.”
- Get enough sleep – this one is easier said than done. Ready our blog post for 4 simple strategies you can implement for better sleep.
- Maintain a healthy diet. This one is very complex. We will likely be writing a post on this one soon.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a health professional.
Take the steps above to manage stress in a healthy way. By doing so, you can improve your overall well-being and reduce the impact that it has on your life.
Watch this 4 minute TED-Ed for an easy to understand explanation of how stress affects the body.
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