The main source of all chronic illness is stress. But most people spend little time doing things to reduce stress, unaware that not doing so is contributing to illness. With FDN, one important element in the healing protocol that we use with clients is stress management. You simply cannot get well if stress remains at chronic levels.
Chronic stress can cause symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog, hormone imbalances, digestive problems, insomnia and sleep problems, frequent colds and flu, loss of libido, pain, heart palpitations and more! And when left unchecked, this stress WILL become disease in the body.
But, there are things that you can do each day that can help to reduce your stress levels so that you can be healthier!
Often when we are stressed, or deeply focused on a task, we hold our breath and forget to breathe. But most people are unaware that this happens. A lack of oxygen creates stress in the body, but getting adequate oxygen helps to relax the body. And when you do some gentle, deep breathing, the benefits occur quickly. The best part about deep breathing for stress reduction is that you can do it anywhere! Taking time to breathe deeply for 1-2 minutes throughout your day can significantly help you to reduce stress!
Here’s a simple breathing exercise, that can reduce stress significantly in less than two minutes:
Inhale, slowly and gently for a count of four seconds. Then hold that breath for a count of four seconds. Exhale the breath slowly for a count of 8 seconds. That’s it!
It may sound simple, and it is. Deep breathing exercises like this one are one of the fastest ways to let go of stress and tension. Many physicians, prescribe deep breathing exercises to their patients to help eliminate stress. Taking the time to slow your breath down and breathe deeply and fully will go a long way to reducing your stress level.
Laughter is a powerful stress reliever. When you laugh, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good. Laughing regularly helps to lower stress hormone levels as well as lowering blood pressure. It is great for heart health and even helps to improve your immune system function! Laughing as much as you can throughout the day will lower your stress levels, so find some great funny videos online, watch a funny movie or play some games with family and friends and have a good laugh!
Turn off the news.
Let’s face it, we live in a stressful time. With violence, natural disasters, accidents and the current political climate, there is plenty to increase stress. But for those people who watch the cable news channels regularly, stress can climb even higher. News channels live for ratings, and negative news tends to get higher ratings than lighter, “feel good” stories. Because of this, most news channels, and even your local nightly news will have a negative focus…because that is what draws viewers. Watching the news regularly can increase fear, anxiety and stress! So saying no to too much news can reduce stress levels significantly.
Taking a technology break
We are surrounded by technology 24/7, and because of that many people tend to be connected more often than is healthy. Heavy smartphone use has been linked to sleep disorders and depression. Mental health issues are higher in those who are constantly accessible via their cell phones. It is important to take a regular break from technology to reduce stress. Do a self-assessment about how often you are connected to your smart phone, laptop, tablet, television or other technology. Ask yourself how often you scroll through social media or check emails or text messages. See how often you spend time binge watching TV shows. Move away from the screens and do something else for a while. If you use your phone for work, set boundaries about the hours you will check work related emails and social media. If possible, find time throughout the day to take short breaks from technology to help reduce stress. Once or twice a month, spend a full day away from technology. Go and read a book, work in a garden or even color. All of these activities get you away from the over-stimulation of technology and give your brain a break from all of the external input.
Get regular exercise
Getting exercise and moving your body regularly is a great way to not only help you to physically be healthier but to reduce stress as well. Exercising releases endorphins in the brain which help you to feel good. But it also lowers levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Getting regular exercise may help you to sleep better as well, which can reduce stress even further. Even a 10-minute walk can help to lower stress levels, but getting exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week is optimal.
Listen to soothing music
Music strongly connects to our emotions. Have you ever noticed the music that often plays in the background of a movie during pivotal scenes? The movie studios do that because they know that having that music support the action onscreen helps to tap into the audience’s emotions and makes the scene more powerful. Knowing how powerful music is for driving moods can also benefit you when it comes to stress relief. Turn on some relaxing, soft instrumental music. Classical, jazz, new age, all can help to reduce stress. Music that is too loud can increase stress levels because the noise overstimulates the body. But soft music can help to soothe and relax the brain.
Meditating has been practiced for thousands of years and is a simple way to reduce stress. When meditating, the combination of deep breathing and removing the brain from almost all external stimulation can significantly reduce stress levels. It helps to wipe away overload of information that causes stress in the brain, in as little as 10 minutes a day. One of the simplest ways to meditate is to find a quiet space, sit comfortably and simply focus on your breathing for 10 minutes. If other thoughts go through your mind, acknowledge them and let them pass.
Getting Out in Nature
Spending time out in nature is a great way to reduce stress levels. When you are outdoors, you get natural vitamin D from the sun. This vitamin helps the body to function more effectively and is vital for well being. Being outside encourages you to get away from technology and unplug for a while. It reduces the amount of external stimulation on the brain and allows it to recharge. Going for a walk in the woods, or spending time gardening have been shown to lower cortisol, the stress hormone and being in the fresh air has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Setting healthy boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries isn’t the easiest thing to do. Many people struggle to say no when others ask them to do things. Others struggle with communicating their needs to those around them. Saying no or speaking up for themselves makes them feel guilty, and so often they will agree to do something, even if they already overwhelmed. But learning to set healthy boundaries and learning to say no cannot only be empowering but can significantly reduce stress. Do you need to set boundaries with family or friends? What about with your job? Take a look at the things you agree to do, but don’t want to. Check in with yourself to see where you may be feeling resentful of people asking too much of you. And make the changes you need to make to set the boundaries you need to set, so that you feel less stressed!
Get plenty of rest
Most adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night to fully recharge our batteries and function optimally. If you sacrifice sleep to try and get more done in the day, you may be increasing stress. If you get too little sleep, you may find yourself feeling irritable, overwhelmed and lack motivation to get things done. You may also eat more sugar, caffeine and highly processed carbs and be tempted to skip exercise…all things which can increase stress on the body. So, make sleep a priority to reduce stress.
It is vital for your health that you put more importance on managing stress. You must make time for stress relief in order to be healthy. When you do, It not only benefits your health, but you will get more done each day, and you will feel better too!