Managing Stress In Today's World

Aimee Duffy, M.D. Physician / Lifestyle Architect / Wellness Mentor                                                                          April 2023

What Is Too Much Stress?

The upside to our stress response is its part of being human and in small doses, can bring about positive change or adaptation to situations. Consider an upcoming interview for a big promotion or moving into a new home; both are exciting and filled with huge potential! On the downside, prolonged stress overload can negatively impact us physically or mentally and result in conditions that require medical treatment. Broken relationships or an auto accident may fall into this category.

It may be due to a one-time life event, like a death in the family or divorce, or become chronic as a result of work pressures or other situations. It is often the lack of control over our lives that creates stress, such as overworked parents rushing to get dinner on the table or an elderly person struggling with mobility. We may experience stress when we feel like we have lost control over our finances or our ability to meet financial obligations. Stress is caused by any situation that creates a threat or challenge to our well-being and safety.

Identifying Stress In Your Life

Stress can manifest as physical, mental, cognitive, or behavioral changes:

● Frequent headaches or digestive upset

● Chest pain or rapid heart rate

● Depression or irritability

● Aggressiveness or mood swings

● Poor memory or difficulty concentrating

● Lack of motivation or abnormal sleep patterns

● Isolation or drug/alcohol abuse

Symptoms of stress can range from mild tension to chronic anxiety. Continual experience of any or a combination of the above conditions suggests the need to identify the trigger and create a plan to lessen the symptoms. Discussing the best treatment methods with your healthcare provider or seeking the support of a mental health specialist is always recommended. If you're living with stress, it's understandable if you may feel like there's no way out. The truth is, while stress can climb to high levels, there are things we can do on our own to help. Removing stressors isn't always practical (and maybe impossible), but caring for our inner selves and creating a pleasant environment whenever we can bring surprising results!

What Does That Mean?

 It means taking time to breathe, rest, soothe, heal, and sometimes saying no. It also means looking at your diet, exercise, and sleep patterns. Ask yourself how you're recharging your batteries, what brings joy to your heart, and feeling grateful for the things and abilities you have. It's very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life; it's also easy to forget about our own needs. We can feel like we have so much on our plates that we don’t stop to take a look at what we're doing with our time. But when we do take a moment to pause and reflect on our lives, we can find ourselves feeling energized rather than drained.

Diet And Exercise

There are many ways to reduce stress and improve your health. One of the most important factors when reviewing your diet is to eliminate foods that harm or irritate your body. Avoiding sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol will reduce the strain on your blood pressure and vital organs while offering a more favorable environment for healing. Exercise can aid by increasing blood flow, building strength and stamina, and preventing weight gain. In addition, moderate physical activity stimulates "feel good" hormones, lifting our mood and enhancing our interaction with others. They offer energy and enthusiasm, much like the runners high." Exercise also helps us deal with stress in healthy ways by lowering cortisol levels in our bodies (the stress hormone).

Creating Self-Care

Self-care varies from person to person, and what works for you may differ from what works for a friend or colleague. It's important to schedule time for yourself each day, even for a few minutes, to let your mind and body rest. Then, when you have more time, step into something that extends for a few hours or even days!

Stress management techniques such as meditation can be very effective at reducing our overall stress level. Other methods include prayer and journaling for reflection on what's causing you stress in order to develop an action plan for dealing with it effectively. Creating an environment of comfort relies on your five senses; somewhere or something aesthetically pleasing, a calming scent, a comfortable temperature, gentle touch, and soothing sounds create a serene mood. Bringing together an environment using as many senses as possible creates a safe place to relax and let go. In a reverse situation, others will find a girls' weekend away hiking tree-lined trails, campfires, and laughter as their best self-care. The natural beauty, fresh air, exercise, and camaraderie, bring equal release and rejuvenation as a spa setting.

Integrative Medicine And Self-Care

As an integrative medicine practitioner, I believe in treating the entire self of mind, body, and spirit. Many of the physical conditions seen today can be traced back to stress in the form of mental or physical ailments. Likewise, mental stress and food sensitivities play a significant part in how we feel each day and our response to the world around us. Unlike conventional medicine, my methods complement standard practice through lifestyle changes, alternative therapies, and self-care. If you'd like to learn more about self-care and becoming a healthier version of "you," please check out my upcoming Luxury Wellness Retreat overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean in May 2023 at Wellness Retreat. We will guide you through yoga and meditation sessions, healthy cooking classes, and fitness classes tailored to your specific needs. Additionally, you'll have opportunities to participate in treatments, including massage therapy and Reiki, to help you relax and rejuvenate. We'll offer a variety of activities to help you connect with nature and explore - walks up to the top of the hill, yoga and workouts in the garden, water aerobics, and an excursion to watch the famous Acapulco Cliff Divers!"

Closing Thoughts

No matter what choice you make in reducing stress in life, identifying it and having the knowledge of what to do about it is the whole point. We’re human, life happens and stress is part of both. But with knowledge comes power and I hope you walk away from this feeling better equipped to handle life’s ups and downs.

Be Well, And Be Happy!



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