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Stress and the Mind

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April 17, 2019 | Published by


One of the biggest ways stress affects us is through how we cope with mental obstacles. Both stress and anxiety are seen as enemies of the mind but are both natural parts of being human. In small amounts, stress and anxiety can actually be healthy and help us overcome tough situations. So, when does stress and anxiety become problematic?

Stress is a response to a threat in a situation, and anxiety is experienced in response to the stress. (1) Stress and anxiety usually take place after life changes such as getting married, starting a new job or school, having a child, moving, or becoming injured or being ill. For many people, once these stressful events take place, anxiety fades away with it shortly thereafter.

When stress becomes chronic or left unmanaged it can lead to excessive anxiety. (2) On top of that, substances like caffeine, drugs, and alcohol that are used to self soothe during stress make anxiety worse. Even drugs such as asthma inhalers, thyroid medicine, and diet pills can worsen the effects of stress and anxiety. (3)

Do you experience excessive anxiety on a regular basis? Below are some tips to help deal with and eliminate anxiety from everyday life.

Start Belly-Breathing

Belly-Breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is the most natural kind of breathing, although it may feel unfamiliar initially. If you have ever watched a baby or an animal breathing, you have seen belly-breathing; the belly, rather than the chest, expands and contracts.

This allows the air to reach the lower part of your lungs where there is a rich blood supply and it triggers the relaxation response within a few minutes. It is just about impossible to be tense and belly-breathe at the same time. (4)

Not sure how to do this? Here’s a quick guide on how to belly breathe:

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down. If sitting, make sure your knees are bent and your body is relaxed. If lying down, you can put a small pillow under your head and between your knees. Your knees can be bent if that’s more comfortable.
  • Place one hand on your upper chest. Place the other hand in the area between your ribcage and belly.
  • Take slow breaths in slowly through your nose. The air should move downward so you feel your stomach rise with your other hand.
  • Let your belly relax. Don’t tense your stomach or force it to move inward. Close your lips slightly and exhale through your mouth. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes. (5)

Relax

You may roll your eyes when you hear the words “just relax,” but hear us out. Learning to relax is another way to adapt yourself to difficult situations with less stress and debilitation. People tend to think of leisure activities as relaxation. However, physiological relaxation is a set of specific internal changes that occur when your mind and body are calm. It is not the same as sleep, rest or having fun. Physiological relaxation is the one internal state that can protect your body from the harmful effects of too much stress. More info on how to properly relax.

Cut the Caffeine

Caffeine can be especially detrimental to those with certain conditions like chronic high stress. The short pick-me-up feels good at first but leads to a crash that makes you feel worse than before. In addition to the harm it can do to already exhausted adrenal glands, it can also increase sleep disturbances, digestive issues, neurological disturbances, and nutritional deficiencies, all of which can induce anxiety.

Energy Robbing People

As you go about your day, notice if there are certain people in your life that seem to make you feel more tired, listless, helpless, frustrated, angry or fatigued when you are around them. While not always intentional, these people can often drain your energy and cause anxiety. Being aware of the energy suckers in your life will allow you to change how you interact with them. Changing your social contacts is sometimes the key to tipping the scales in your favor for recovery.

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule

Getting adequate sleep each night is essential if you’re suffering from anxiety. Research shows that inadequate sleep intensifies the brain’s anticipatory reactions, which raises anxiety levels. (6) It’s also crucial to start off every morning stress-free, and not racing around the house trying to complete tasks before you begin your day. Waking up early and taking your time to prepare may be the therapeutic start you need each morning in order to conquer anxiety.

Get Active

In addition to benefits such as promoting healthy sleep, clearing the mind, and charging endorphins, getting even a small amount of daily exercise is a well-known stress deterrent. Researchers show that within five years, people that exercise vigorously and regularly were 25 percent less likely to develop an anxiety disorder. (7)

Supplement

Many medications we take to feel healthier can in fact cause anxiety. Even prescription for anxiety have been reported to make individual’s anxiety worse. Treating stress through natural herbal supplements can help promote a healthy lifestyle, and along with other life changes on this list, may help you optimize your life to be less stressful and anxious.

 

References:

  1. Understanding the Facts: Stress. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/stress
  2. Anxiety Disorders. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
  3. Stress and Anxiety. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress-and-anxiety#causes
  4. Wilson, J. Adrenal Fatigue The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.
  5. Wong, C. How to Do Belly Breathing. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-breathe-with-your-belly-89853
  6. https://www.nolahmattress.com/blogs/blog/161782279-dreaming-of-a-bright-future
  7. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety

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