One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding stress, is that we can’t do anything about it. From diet to exercise to mindfulness to finances, there are several paths we can take to identify and manage these ever-present feelings.
38% of adults have said they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods because of stress according to the American Psychological Association.
It turns out that there is a direct correlation between stress and digestive and nutritional health. Symptoms such as an upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramping, or changes in appetite are all biochemical reactions that are regulated by the gut-brain axis, a system connecting the brain, central nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, cognitive, and emotional centers of the brain communicate with elements of the gut microbiome. The enteric nervous system controls digestive function and the production of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. These “chemical messengers” are associated with pleasurable sensations and help regulate many of our bodily functions. They have roles in sleep, memory, as well as metabolism and emotional well-being.
When our stress levels increase, it causes disruption in our digestive system, so a diet that supports gut health can calm those physiological stress responses. Eating foods that promote our digestive health can also lead to improved well-being that can help us manage stress long term. Check out a list of the best nutrition apps of 2020.
Exercise can alleviate stress by boosting our outlook through meaningful activity and sense of accomplishment, but only for people with the mindset that exercise is a “stress reliever”. Our attitudes are everything! Exercising produces many of the same physiological reactions that ignite the stress response. The reactions to a high-intensity resistance activity mimics the physical responses to extreme levels of stress. Exposing our body to the same sensations we would experience during a high-stress moment, but in a more positive, self-controlled context which can help us handle other stressors.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Recommendations for adults include doing at least two and half hours of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, as well as incorporating strength training twice a week. Check out a list of the best workout apps of 2020.
Our thoughts regarding money weigh heavily on most of our minds. According to a 2018 survey by Northwestern Mutual, money was the dominant stressor for 44% of Americans and a recent report showed that 69% of workers were stressed about finances. We imagine that given our current environment with the effects of the lockdowns and COVID this number is much higher.
A constant fear of being unable to provide can cause perpetual activation of the stress response in the body. Financial insecurity can differ from other sources of stress because of the necessity surrounding the problem. These are very “primal” worries. To cope with stress, try to make only one significant monetary decision at a time, track spending daily with a list and remain mindful of ways to reduce spending wherever is possible. Check out a list of the best personal finance apps of 2020.
Finding balance is an important first step in reframing our stressed-out attitudes. By focusing on the present moment, we can discover a sense of calm that can block out many sources of stress in our lives. Meditation unites the body and the mind in a method of relaxation, quelling the physical response the body feels in moments of stress. Physiologically, blood pressure is lowered, and the heart rate is slowed. The meditative state enables us to go from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest”, where the body can relax and doesn’t feel on alert.
When first embarking upon regular meditation practice, it is best to start small. Two or three minutes per day can still be beneficial as you work your way up to 20 minutes or more later on. Try integrating mindful moments throughout the day, including talking a walk or breathing deeply. You don’t have to do it alone either. Group meditation can provide a sense of predictability and support and pairing it with other stress relivers such as acupuncture is a great way to get started. There are even apps you can use to help guide you. Check out a list of the best meditation apps of 2020.
We should all take time to re-evaluate our stress level for the well-being of our society and ourselves. Modern Acupuncture® is a natural, stress relief solution and the leading provider of acupuncture in the U.S.