As we approach the end of the year, our calendars are filling up with additional commitments. From holiday work parties to school plays and concerts, it can be difficult to fit everything in. All of this – plus the regular challenges of daily life – can cause stress.
The good news is that there are ways to minimize stress and its effects on the body. Here are some proven tips and tools to help relieve stress:
Relaxation techniques refocus your attention on something calming, that does not cause you stress, and can help you increase awareness of your body. By practicing relaxation on a regular basis, you may feel less stressed or tired and more engaged in your daily life.
Try deep breathing, meditation and yoga to get more oxygen to the brain. That will help your mind and body feel more relaxed. Visualization – where you form mental images to take a visual journey to a place that is peaceful and calming – is another beneficial relaxation technique.
When you’re feeling relaxed, it’s easier to find solutions for what’s causing your stress. Remember that these techniques take practice. If one technique doesn’t work for you, try another one.
Channel your nervous energy through movement. Exercise also helps release endorphins. These are known as “feel-good” hormones that boost mood and reduce pain. Just a 10-minute walk may help you clear your head.
Don’t forget to eat!
Opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins instead of foods high in fat and sugar. Bananas or potatoes have lots of potassium which helps regulate rising blood pressure during times of stress.
When choosing a snack, pick something that will fill you up, like a hard-boiled egg, avocado, cottage cheese or a handful of almonds. Don’t rush through a meal. You can even turn it into a meditation exercise by focusing on the texture of your food, how it tastes and how good it makes you feel.
Step away from the screen
Whether you have a cell phone, tablet, computer or TV, it’s easy to be connected to a screen all day long. Take regular breaks from the screen throughout the day. Try to shut everything off and remain offline for at least an hour before bedtime. Make your bedroom a relaxation zone – with no TV on while you sleep.
Play some music
Classical music is particularly soothing. A 2015 study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology found that classical music slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and decreases levels of stress hormones. Whatever your taste in music might be, any genre has the potential to lift your mood, especially when you’re in the midst of a stressful event.
Engage in conversations
Connecting with family and friends makes a difference. They may even be able to help you find solutions for stressful situations.
Ups and downs are normal. But if you’re struggling to manage your stress, know that it’s ok to ask for help. Oftentimes talking about how you’re feeling is the first step toward getting better.
At Kaiser Permanente, we believe that mental health is an important part of total health – body, mind, and spirit. Additional support and resources are available through Kaiser Permanente’s Find Your Words public awareness campaign at www.findyourwords.org.
– Patricia Dietzgen, D.O., is a family medicine physician practicing at the Kaiser Permanente Frisco medical offices