5 Critical Ways to Manage the Stress in Your Life

by Carine Camara

For so many years, I was chronically stressed. There was a general tightness and tension that seem to live in my neck and shoulders. I had daily headaches, digestion issues, erratic moods, and frequent colds. I was unaware that my health issues could be resolved with managing my stress. In constant fight or flight mode, the body is always producing a cascade of stress hormones. One of which is cortisol, only meant for short term use. Here are some of the effects of prolong levels of cortisol: lowers immunity, creates blood sugar imbalance, increases inflammation in the body and inhibits collagen.

My aha moment with stress was during acupuncture school. After the first 18 months of school, there is a first year comprehensive exam. It was a 2 day process with several exams on the various subjects we were studying. I stayed up late, didn't exercise or eat balanced, and mentally obsessed about the exam. I ended up passing, but on the last day of the test I started sneezing. By the next day I was in bed with the flu. Believe or not, I have never had the flu before. It was intense. A lesson learned. Stress can have devastating affects on your life, and these are the 5 holistic methods I use to create a balance.

1. Movement. Moving your energy. Tension or stagnation of energy in a particular area of our body can cause pain and discomfort. Think shoulder and neck pain. Having a regular exercise routine is important. Whatever makes you happy and that you can commit to. Any type of movement- will send more oxygen to your brain. Making you more productive, and efficient. Consistent exercise reduces stress in your body, and helps you feel more grounded.

For me it is Yoga, I practice 4-6 times a week. And I incorporate these 2 simple stretches in my workday.

If you are sitting in front of the computer finish this article then, stand up and bend forward and reach your arms to your feet. And take 5 deep breathes. Next roll up and take your arms over your head, stretching your arms like you trying to reach for the sky. And take 5 deep breaths.

2. Food. The importance of eating a balanced healthy diet is essential to our well being. Food is medicine. For stress it is very important to maintain your blood sugar levels. Facing a challenging situation while being hungry exacerbates everything! I try not to let myself get to a place of extreme hunger, I make sure that I eat 3 meals with snacks through out the day. I always carry a snack with me- a granola bar, nuts, fruits or something. If I know I am going to have a full day, and it may involve me eating while driving to my next appointment. I pack extra food. And drink a smoothie- one that is jam pack with highly nutritious foods (ex: kale, chia seeds, flax seeds, avocados, coconut water)

3. Supplements. Maintaining the proper balance of minerals and vitamins in our bodies can be challenging in our modern world. I always advise to get most of your nutrients from your food, but there are some supplements that can be taken to help your body better adapt to stress. I would consult a health care provider for specific supplements that suit your needs.

Though, magnesium is a mineral that everyone needs. And it gets depleted when we are stressed. It is essential for all cellular function in our body, supports energy production, relaxes our muscles and blood vessels, and regulates our bowel function. Around 80% of our population has signs of magnesium deficiency. Taking Magnesium can help with insomnia, depression, PMS, fatigue, muscle cramps, mood swings, and water retention. I have been taking magnesium supplements at night before I go to sleep, and I have noticed a big shift in my energy level during the day. I feel more grounded, and less reactive to situations.

4. Alone time. There are various things that you can do to dedicate time and space for yourself. Some people mediate to clear their mind, some people spend time in their garden, and other people go on walks. Find your own path to creating your inner peace, a method that works for you to go within, to find your inner Buddha.

For me it is short mediation, and writing in my journal. Expressing what is going on in my life. Taking it off my mind and putting it on paper. It is my way of creating a connection with my inner world. Creating a strong relationship with yourself, makes connecting with people easier and less stressful. What activity allows you to go within?

5. Having fun. Work Hard and Play hard. Creating a balance in your life, makes difficult situations more tolerable. Fun enriches your life with joy and spirit. It is important to laugh and enjoy the moments of life.

My fun is dance, since I was a child. No matter what is going on in my life, music and movement can always bring a smile to my face. What brings you joy?

Stress on a biochemical and physical level can we treated with supplements, food and exercise. On an emotional and spiritual level, it requires asking yourself questions? Why does this situation stress me out? How do I feel? How do I want to feel?

My Ah-ha moment became a time to understand what triggered my intense response to stress. It was a big exam, and the first of many. I couldn't get ill every time I took an exam, and I had 3 more years to go! I incorporated the above methods into my life. I realized that it was my fear of failure, because I had a story in my mind that I wasn't smart enough. It was creating all my anxiety and stress. Once I let go of my expectations, took the pressure off myself, and changed my mindset. School exams were no longer a problem.

Managing your stress is a path of self-inquiry and discovery to truly get to the root. Once you figure out what is behind your stress, you can become free of it.

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