DEALING WITH STRESS
First of all, there will be stress. So don't stress about being stressed! As our external world is rapidly changing, we will also have changes going on internally which can cause stress and anxiety. This article popped into my inbox today, and I found it really helpful for putting everything into perspective.
It is not about avoiding stress, but about finding tools and techniques that work for you, so you can manage stress in a way that we can maintain our health through these challenging times. Stress in itself is not a bad thing, it can what gives us drive, energy and motivation. But being stuck in the "fight or flight" sympathetic stress mode for prolonged periods can have a negative impact on both our physical and psychological health.
The goal is to be able to bring our bodies into the opposite parasympathetic state, where we feel much more relaxed and calm. Being in a parasympathetic state also helps us digest our food better, strengthens our immune system, conserves energy and can lower our blood pressure
Some research-based strategies to get you into a parasympathetic state
NOTE: It is important to talk to your Doctor if you are having extreme symptoms. Major mental changes, such as excessive sadness, panic, persistent low mood, euphoria, or anxiety, are all reasons to see a doctor.
Anyone who has seen Ilana or Marcel for physio, knows how much importance we place on breathing. It can have a major impact on reducing stress and getting you into a calm relaxed state. Doing a few minutes, or even just a few breaths can help reduce your state of stress.
Some studies have shown laughter to stimulate the vagus nerve (which brings you into the parasympathetic state).
Finding something to laugh at can be easier for some than others. Laughter yoga is one way to create laughter if you struggle to laugh. Here is a TED talk on laughter yoga
Or simply find a TV show that gets you laughing (Seinfeld is our go-to on TVNZ on demand).
3. MEDITATION & MINDFULNESS
The health benefits of mindfulness have been well researched. A big part of this benefit is how mindfulness can bring you from a sympathetic to a parasympathetic state. If you have practiced mediation or mindfulness before, carry on with the methods that work best for you. If this is new for you, it is about finding what works for you. I would recommend starting really small (ie. a few minutes) and doing that regularly, rather than trying for 30 minutes and getting frustrated.
The basic principle of mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, without judgement. If you feel like your mind is all over the show, that is completely understandable (especially at this time). Be kind to yourself, and keep bringing your awareness back to the present. Every time you bring your awareness back is like doing 1 rep in the gym- over time you will get stronger.
Some great online resources are
www.headspace.com and calm.com (online mindfulness apps)
And some great books are
Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chodron
Turning Suffering Inside Out, by Darlene Cohen
Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness, by Rick Hanson
If you are lucky enough to be in a bubble with someone who can give you a massage, or even a foot rub - this can be amazing for calming your nervous system down. If you are alone, or unable to get a massage, try rolling your feet on a tennis ball. It is surprisingly relaxing.
5. COLD THERAPY
A Study has shown cold exposure can increase parasympathetic activity. If you have done something like the Wim Hof Method, it would be beneficial to carry on with this. If this is new to you, I would recommend against jumping into an ice bath! A good beginning level would be to have 30 seconds of cold at the end of your shower, and slowly increase this to 2 minutes. If you have any heart condition, epilepsy or serious medical condition, please check with your GP first.
6. GENTLE EXERCISE (IN NATURE IF POSSIBLE)
Getting out for a walk or bike out side (in your own neigbourhood) is a great way to de-stress and get some exercise. If you are around nature (beach, parks, forest) then that is even better. If you are conditioned to more intense exercise, then that is fine to carry on with, but trying to ramp things up during this period will likely increase stress on your body, affect your immune system, and possibly cause injuries!
Certain herbs called adaptogens (eg. Ashwagandha, Rhodiola) have the ability to lower cortisol levels when they are high, as well as raise them if they are too low. Other herbs can be useful for anxiety and sleep. Contact us for more information.
1. INFORMATION OVERLOAD?
There is so much going on in the world right now, and it can be very tempting to check the internet and social media throughout the day to see what is happening. On one hand we do need to keep up to date, but we don't need to know everything going on. Constantly checking and watching the news is a sure-fire way to get your stress hormones up.
We all have different things we need to keep tabs on. For example, as a Physio, I need to keep up to date with what info ACC and the Physio Board are putting out. My recommendation is to try and "batch" your research and keep it relevant. Ie. spend a block of time keeping up with what you need to (not how many cases are going on in Madagascar) and then try to leave your phone and social media alone! This is easier said than done, and it depends on your circumstances, but it can really help keep our stress levels manageable.
If you have any questions regarding any of this information or anything else health related, please feel free to contact me.