When most people think of stress, they usually have an image of time crunches, deadlines, bills, angry bosses, financial hardship, sick children, etc. that have mainly negative connotations. However, biologically speaking, that is not necessarily the full picture.
Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to stress in ways that protect us from threats in the environment and keep us strong internally through proper function and structure.
If the stress response is so vital to keeping us safe from danger and maintaining optimal performance, then how can it be so detrimental to our health?
The key is not in the intensity of the response but in the frequency. In today’s hectic world, we are constantly exposed to situations that trigger the stress response. These daily occurrences tend to be less intense, but often have a much more insidious effect on our health. Often, our body has not even fully recovered from one stress response before it immediately has to deal with the next situation.
Every time you drive a car, ride a crowded subway, watch the news, use social media, or deal with cranky co-workers, your brain is bombarded with stimuli that must be processed as a threat or not. What this does is creates a low-level “fight or flight” response that never really goes away. Although your life is not truly on the line, the body assumes it could be.
Every person who experiences the pathological effects of stress automatically has an innate biological and emotional need to cope with that stress. Unfortunately, many of the coping mechanisms we choose are detrimental to our well-being. In moderation, there is little harm. But, once we use the crutch of smoking, drinking, comfort eating, gambling, watching TV, or surfing the internet as a regular way of “decompressing”, then we have a much harder time undoing those habits when they do negatively affect our health.
The good news is that some of the most effective techniques to combat stress and avoid maladaptive behaviors are also really simple and not too time-consuming.
With these 8 Healthy Habits, you will respond to stress in a way that is productive and will have a positive impact on your mental and physical health. Try to incorporate as many as you can into your daily or weekly routine.
- Work it out –Having a regular exercise routine is one of the most important things we can do to maintain good health and offset the effects of stress. Developing the discipline to work out 2-3 times per week can have an enormous impact on how you feel every day.
- Work on yourself –Take the time to get regular acupuncture and massage treatments. Not only can acupuncture and massage relieve the acute symptoms of stress, but it can prevent recurrences from happening in the future. Plus, you’ll feel amazing.
- Take it inside –Practicing meditation and breathing exercises on a regular basis gives you the ability to find calm and peace in any situation. When a stressful moment arises, you can develop a reflex to automatically relax, stay centered, and respond from a place of clarity.
- Take it outside –Believe it or not, a lot of our stress today comes from spending too much time cooped up indoors. It creates stagnation and poor circulation. Get outside, no matter the season, even for a few minutes, and breath the fresh air. For an even more powerful experience, when you take it outside, take it inside too and try some quiet breathing or meditation.
- Talk it out –Often the thing that people need most is to have someone to talk to. A therapist provides an objective ear in a nonjudgmental environment and can provide professional expertise dealing with anxiety and depression. Socializing safely can also be a powerful way to stimulate parts of the brain that often get neglected when we are dealing with stress.
- Turn it off –As difficult as it may be for most of us, it is crucial to be able to turn off the TV/phone/computer. Although it may seem relaxing, those devices are constantly emitting electronic frequency which actually stimulates the brain and makes it more difficult to relax. This, in turn, makes it much harder to fall asleep and maintain a deep restful sleep for the whole night.
- Write it down –Have goals, make plans, have things to look forward to. And always write them down. It gives you something to strive for and makes it easier to manifest when it is on paper and not just in your head.
- Substitute –Trying to eat healthy does not have to add to the stress you have already. Just make simple substitutions. As much as possible sub out sugar, processed foods, and caffeine, and sub in veggies, healthy fats, and water.