The Wellness Corner

The Wellness Corner

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Kick 2020 to the curb…. for the health of it!

While all of the stresses of 2020 may not be completely behind us, a new year brings new hope and new perspective. There are a lot of things still out of our control, but one thing you CAN focus on controlling is improving your own health and wellness. One of the best things one can do for themselves is work on reducing stress.

It’s no secret that the long-term effects of distress can be damaging to our health. Stress has the ability to negatively impact our lives. It can cause unpleasant physical conditions, such as headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances. It can also cause psychological and emotional strains, including confusion, anxiety, and depression.

The American Psychological Association even states that untreated chronic stress, or stress that’s constant and lasts over an extended period of time, can result in high blood pressure or even a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to the development of conditions of obesity and heart disease.

Knowing how to spot the signs of stress is the first step in developing ways to manage its adverse effects.

Some of the more common physical, psychological, and emotional signs of chronic stress include:

  • rapid heart rate
  • elevated blood pressure
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • poor problem-solving
  • fear that the stressor won’t go away
  • persistent thoughts about one or more stressors
  • changes in behavior, including social withdrawal, feelings of sadness, frustration, loss of emotional control, inability to rest, and self-medication

Here are some things to try if you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Go for a walk – Virtually any form of exercise is a natural stress reliever! Regular exercise lowers the level of stress hormones. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.

Connect with nature - Studies show that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings.

Journaling- create a “gratitude” or “success” journal to help focus on positive thoughts.

Listen to music - Soothing music can slow the pulse and heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease the levels of stress hormones, and distract us from our worries.

Laughter - Laughter really is the best medicine! Laughter can help stop distressing emotions. It helps to shift perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

Connect with friends - Studies show that being socially connected increases happiness and leads to better health and a longer life. It helps overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Just say “no” - Be selective about what you take on. Saying no to things that will unnecessarily add to your plate can reduce your stress levels.

Pet the dog (or cat!) - Science shows that playing with or petting an animal can reduce stress and can also help us reduce feelings of isolation, helping us feel more connected. Petting a dog or cat increases the production in the brain of “feel good” neurotransmitters which lowers stress and increases feelings of happiness.

Practice mindfulness or meditation - Mindfulness is about paying attention to daily life and the things we typically rush through. It’s about turning down the volume in your mind by coming back to the body.

Practice abdominal breathing - Deep abdominal breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and promotes a feeling of calmness. Deep breathing helps to activate the body’s relaxation response and studies show that abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day reduces anxiety and stress.

Try yoga or tai chi - . Yoga helps lower cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate, and modulates the stress response. Additionally, preliminary research suggests that the slow mindful breaths and movements of tai chi have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood-regulating hormones. Regularly practicing tai chi can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Serve others – VOLUNTEER! Helping other people can help bring us outside ourselves. It can also help distract us from our own problems and think about something else. Studies have shown that people who help others have lowered levels of depression and anxiety.

Reduce caffeine intake- Research shows that high doses of caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks, can increase levels of anxiety, depression. People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.

If all else fails, try chocolate - Extra dark chocolate really does improve your mood and is great for brain health! Cocoa is high in flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and reduce blood pressure. The darker the chocolate, the more flavanols. Eating dark chocolate is good for your memory, blood pressure, and your mood. It helps alleviate depression and also acts as an anti-inflammatory.


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