As I look around, it feels like stressors are everywhere these days. During the past 12-months (and counting) we’ve had to make major changes to the way we live our lives. In turn, this has led to increased anxiety and uncertainty about what the future holds for us.
Thinking back to March 2020, I can still feel how stressful it was, not only about my family or me catching the virus, but also trying to figure out how to adjust to the new normal—even though it was only going to be temporary.
On top of all that, we’ve had to face significant social stressors like mass shootings, racial injustices, riots, and even an assault on the U.S. Capital. No wonder so many people are stressed out! In fact, the recent Stress in America Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 84% of respondents reported having increased stress levels.
Although most of us have adapted to some degree and found new ways to work, socialize, exercise, and keep our sanity, the prolonged stress has been taking its toll on the mental and physical health of many people.
Has it been affecting you too?
How Stress Helps or Hurts Us
Short-term stress motivates us to get through challenging situations. Whether it’s a genuine threat, preparing to take a test, or having a short turnaround time on a project at work, the stress response kicks in quickly by releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These in turn, cause physiological changes that put us into high gear to help us do what is needed to get through the situation.
Once that’s achieved, the stress response then quiets down until it’s summoned again.
Unfortunately, our brains don’t differentiate between real and perceived threats; the evolutionary wiring is geared to protect us, no matter what. The problem is that when stress becomes chronic, our stress hormones don’t turn off and this can lead to significant health problems, such as:
- Increased inflammation
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety and depression
- Obesity (which increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer)
Given the magnitude of everything that’s been going on, if you’re facing some of these same problems, it’s really important to start making stress management a priority for yourself.
Tips for Getting Stress Under Control
Even if stress seems to be getting the best of you right now, it’s still possible to get it under control. To help you out, I want to share some simple tips that I know can make a positive difference for you going forward.
- Start Your Day Right: Having a tasty but nutritious breakfast gets me started on the right foot and helps keep my stress in check for the rest of the day. It’s really important to eat some protein along with healthy fats and fruits or vegetables to properly fuel your body and brain. Here’s my delicious recipe for Super Simple Tanana Pancakes—one of my family’s favorites. Enjoy!
- Call a Friend and Take a Walk—or More: Exercise helps to release endorphins which boost your mood and help you feel more relaxed afterward, while spending time with someone you enjoy can be uplifting and calming. As you’re walking, try adding in some bursts—walking as fast as you can for 30-45 seconds—alternating with your regular pace. Or, if you want to do more intense exercise, here’s one of the short workout videos I did with my trainer that can help you work up a sweat!
- Spend a Few Minutes Meditating: Time and time again, research has shown that meditation can decrease stress while improving brain function—2 things all of us need more of right now! I find that even if I only have a short window of time to get my meditation in, I feel calmer and more focused afterward. I invite you to join me for this loving kindness meditation so you can reap these same benefits.
- Switch to Healthier Sleep Habits: I know stress can interfere with the quality of sleep, but speaking from personal experience, there are some easy fixes to help me get the sleep I need:
- Avoid any type of caffeine after 12:00pm.
- Turn off your devices—TV included—1 to 2 hours before climbing into bed, because the blue light can interfere with your circadian rhythm and disrupt your sleep. Try reading a book (but not a thriller) instead to help you unwind.
- If you’re a light sleeper, use dark curtains to block outside light and run a fan or other white noise device to minimize distracting sounds.
- Instead of sleeping pills, which lower brain function and make you groggy in the morning, take a natural supplement instead. I like BrainMD’s Restful Sleep, because it has melatonin, magnesium and other calming nutrients that help me sleep well and wake up feeling refreshed.
By taking the steps now to reduce your levels of stress, you’ll also be creating more balance in your life. This will help improve your overall sense of well-being and support you in becoming the resilient person you are meant to be. I believe you can do this!
If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.
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