By the Erickson Living Embrace Wellness Team
Happy September! As you know from reading earlier editions of this article, Erickson Living has been on a journey called “Embrace Wellness”—a journey to create greater appreciation for all of the dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, occupational, spiritual, and environmental. Our focus for September is on Emotional Wellness.
This month our focus is on stress and how we can learn techniques to counter the stress response. Stress may be the biggest health challenge facing us today. Not only can stress affect physical health, it also plays a major role in our mental health. Stress can lead to depression, loss of self-confidence and even suicidal tendencies. Managing stress is vital for our health and happiness. The good news is that it is possible to reduce stress. Here are some “stress busters”:
Relaxation. Suggested approaches are deep abdominal breathing, focusing on soothing words (such as, peace or calm), visualization of tranquil scenes, repetitive prayer, yoga, and tai chi.
Physical Activity. People can use exercise to stifle the buildup of stress in several ways. Exercise, such as taking a brisk walk shortly after feeling stressed, not only deepens breathing but also helps relieve muscle tension.
Social Support. Confidants, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, relatives, spouses, and companions all provide a life-enhancing social net—and may increase longevity.
Organize Your Life. Disorganization is guaranteed to add to the stress in life. Simple techniques, such as time management, can be wonderful de-stressors. A simple way to do this is to make a list every evening of what you need to do the next day. Another great de-stressor is to tidy up. Clutter causes stress because you can’t find things and because it creates a negative picture in your mind that puts you on edge.
Gratitude. Developing an “Attitude of Gratitude” can have an amazing effect on one’s stress levels. Focusing on the things that are going right helps us to realize that things are not as bad as they appear. Learning to appreciate all you do have, and to stop focusing on the things you don’t have, will have a major impact on reducing your stress levels.
Music. Music can evoke strong feelings of pleasure in us. You don’t need a music therapist; simply create a play list of soothing music, then sit back and allow the music to work its wonders on you.
Diet. Diet plays a significant role in stress. Cutting down on processed, packaged and fast foods will not only reduce your stress levels but also help to improve your overall health. Increasing the amount of fresh foods and whole grains in your diet will help improve your mood, give you more energy and improve your ability to cope with stress.
Sleep. Too little sleep leads to irritability, depression and reduced ability to perform mentally and physically, as well as ill health. Start by establishing bedtime routines that tell your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. Things that will assist are going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding eating too late and not watching TV just before going to bed.
Hobbies and activities. People who have an interesting hobby or activity have been found to have less stress and are able to handle stress better than those who don’t. Even more effective are activities that involve other people, as the social interaction helps to shift the focus off one’s self and one’s problems.
If you’re not sure if stress is the cause, or if you’ve taken steps to control your stress but your symptoms continue, see your doctor.
Suicide is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations—and all the more tragic because suicide can be prevented. Learn suicide warning signs and how to reach out for immediate help and professional treatment. You may save a life—your own or someone else’s.