Everyone experiences some stress now and then. In small doses, stress fuels your body with adrenaline and cortisol to quicken your reflexes, sharpen your focus, and give you the energy you need to escape a dangerous situation.
You may know this chemical reaction as the “fight or flight” mode, and it comes in handy when you need it. But this rush of stress-related hormones is meant to be temporary. If you remain under stress, these hormones can wreak havoc on your body and mind, causing a long list of health problems.
At Peninsula RSI Chiropractic Wellness Center, Dr. Dana Robinson and our team often see the effects of stress on our patients in Redwood City, California. Here, we take a closer look at the physical and mental effects of excess stress and five ways you can manage it.
How stress affects you physically and mentally
When you live under constant stress, it begins to take a toll on you. Some people experience symptoms and don’t even realize that stress is the cause. Here are some of the ways stress shows up:
- Chest pain
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Panic attacks
- Anger or aggressiveness
Excess stress can also make you behave in ways that are out of character for you. For example, you may start eating too much, turning to drugs or alcohol to cope, avoiding friends and social situations, and abandoning your favorite activities and hobbies.
How to manage stress
To prevent these common side effects of stress, you need to recognize the sources of stress in your life and learn how to mitigate them. Here are five strategies for reducing or coping with stress.
1. Avoid or reduce stressful situations
Identifying the things that introduce stress into your life is the first step in reducing or eliminating them. It’s impossible to avoid all sources of stress, but there are likely several you can get rid of.
For example, if you tend to overschedule yourself and say yes to everyone who asks you for help, you can make an effort to protect your schedule and only agree to the most important tasks.
Time management is also an important skill that helps reduce stress. Keeping an appointment book or tracking to-do lists on an app can keep you accountable and organized so you don’t have to worry about juggling dates and times in your head.
If certain social situations make you anxious, opt out until you feel better able to handle them. Confrontational relationships, high-stress jobs, and dangerous or competitive hobbies can all create unnecessary stress that you can choose to eliminate from your life.
2. Exercise more
Exercise is an excellent stress reducer. Whenever you feel tense and anxious, take a long stroll in the park, go to the gym, walk your dog, or go for a bike ride. Exercise produces endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers and feel-good hormones. Endorphins have a calming effect on your brain, which boosts your mood, improves your sleep patterns, and reduces the effects of stress.
3. Practice mind over matter
When you must endure a stressful situation — such as a high-powered meeting, an argument, or a horror movie — there are some simple strategies for getting through it without stressing out.
Meditation and prayer are good ways to calm your mind and relax your body.
Guided imagery that helps you imagine a serene setting can bring you peace and reduce your stress.
And focused breathing exercises that feature slow, intentional breathing through the nose can settle your heart rate and calm your body and mind.
4. Consider chiropractic care
Stress tightens your muscles, which can trigger neck and back pain, and it can also put you at high risk for work and sports injuries. Tense muscles pull your musculoskeletal system out of alignment. The resulting pain creates even more stress, and the cycle continues.
But studies show that chiropractic care can help reduce your stress and ease your pain. With regular expert chiropractic adjustments, Dr. Robinson can restore your body’s healthy alignment so it can function more efficiently and reduce the effects of stress.
5. Get a massage
You may think of a massage as an indulgent spa treatment, but it has amazing medical benefits as well. One of them is stress reduction. Researchers have found that massage therapy can significantly reduce your stress, lower your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.
Dr. Robinson specializes in a wide variety of massage therapy techniques and has extensive training and experience that enables her to customize your massage therapy treatment according to your unique needs.
If you’re feeling stressed, try some of these proven strategies for reducing its harmful effects. To schedule a chiropractic or massage therapy appointment, call our friendly staff or use our handy online booking tool, and look forward to stress-free holidays this year.