First Of All
Prioritize. Take some time to figure out what brings you joy and purpose in life and prioritize that. Don’t forget to save time to care for yourself along the way.
Dr. Dawn Gareau
Do you want to decrease stress in your life? Then don’t do what everyone else is doing. It’s important to have goals and strive towards them and work hard to achieve what you desire but make sure it does not cost you your health. Set realistic goals and live within your means.
Plan out your week. This sounds almost too simple, but it is a game changer for reducing overwhelm. I encourage my patients to sit down on Sundays and spend 15 or 20 minutes planning out their week. Figure out what’s coming up for work and social time, schedule workouts, plan down time, and leave room for any extras. This is also a great time to write out your weekly to-do list, figure out when those items are best done in your schedule, and set positive intentions for the week.
A meditation practice can include formal meditation, yoga, being in nature and being present, or prayer. All these activities reduce stress hormones and foster good feelings.
Implementing a 10-20 minute meditation practice daily helps relieve added stress. A 5-10 minute practice just before bedtime can help turn off cyclical thoughts and improve sleep induction.
One of the most important things we can do to avoid the “bad stress” and turn it in to “good stress” is to take a few seconds to breathe. If we can remember that everyone has their own motivations and that most of the time their actions are reactions and not personal to us, we can avoid some of the negative stress that causes us. When work is stressful because of deadlines we can take just a few calming breaths throughout the day. Set a timer every two hours to take 5 deep breaths to help remind yourself. You can even add a quote to your timer that helps motivate you and keeps you cool. Also, regularly taking adaptogens like ashwagahnda, rhodiola, ginseng, valerian root, or rosemary can do wonders to mitigate stress and support those adrenals!
Dr. Sarah King ND
Remember to breathe! No matter what you’re faced with, a long and slow exhale can do wonders for the nervous system. Alternatively, you can focus on “counted” breathing: 6 counts in, 8 counts out. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
Learn to belly breath. Doing so activates your parasympathetic system which is essential for stress management. Deep diaphragmatic breathing can be incorporated easily into daily activities whether it’s before eating, sitting at your desk, first thing when you wake up, last thing before you go to bed, or during an acute stressful situation. It is a tool you can use at anytime to calm your nervous system. In particular, left nostril breathing (a kundalini yoga practise) is particularly useful for anxiety and stress. This technique involves covering your right nostril and taking 10 deep belly breaths in and out through your left nostril. Give it a try next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Every morning, after you have just woken up and your feet are still warm from bed (or after you coffee while you are wearing slippers), go outside and walk on cold dewy grass. You can also walk on dirt or snow, just make sure you are connecting to the earth. Take a few deep breaths and feel your self release stress and anxiety, while giving yourself an immune boost by moving lymph and blood.
Dr. Jocelyn Taitt, ND
Learn to just be. If you can’t sit through a meal, TV show or conversation without checking your smartphone for additional stimulation, you’ve potentially become addicted to your smartphone and lost the ability to be present. You need to retrain your mind to stay present in the moment, which is essential for stress-management. If you’re having trouble focussing, take a moment to take a couple of deep belly breaths, notice how your body feels in the chair you’re sitting in, and notice what else your senses are picking up – the sound of the voice of the person you’re speaking with or who is on TV, other ambient sounds, the scents in the air etc. Take another deep belly breath, and notice how your body starts to relax as you reduce the degree of busyness in your mind when you’re not constantly seeking distraction and stimulation from your smartphone. At first it will feel like you’re decelerating off the highway, but that will soon pass. Taking these actions will shift your nervous system from the fight-or-flight mode into the relaxation-inducing rest-and-digest mode.
Dr. Janet Opila-Lehman
Many folks feel stressed when their anxiety levels are increasing. Rather than talking pharmaceutical medications, turning to the natural compound inositol, (B8) may alleviate symptoms. Most people are not deficient in inositol, which is found in beans, nuts, cantaloupe and wheat, but in in a 1995 double-blind study by the Ministry of Mental Health at Ben Gurion University, published in the “Journal of Clinical Psychology,” showed that inositol has shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. This compound helps with cell formation, nerve transmission and may effect serotonin levels. A boost of inositol will assist these mechanisms of action. Doses start at 500 mg bid, and one can titrate up slowly to 12-15 grams for severe anxiety/stress reactions. Since inositol is water soluble, side effects are rare, but one may experience diarrhea, headaches or fatigue, so be sure to slowly increase the dose if necessary. Although research studies have not been completed, the inositol has been reported to effect the liver and heart fat cells, so an indirect use may be weight loss!
Cindy Azevedo, ND, LAc
Reminders for deep breathing. Place simple reminders like a yellow circle or smiley face around the house or office to consciously take deep a diaphragmatic breath every time you see the dot.
Sleep may be the most fundamental factor in managing stress. However, many people suffer from inadequate time in bed and sleep quality. Promoting proper sleep hygiene by sleeping in a blackout room, allowing the environment to cool to ~67-70°F, and avoiding any blue light (such as TV, cell phones, iPads, etc) 30 minutes prior to bed has been shown to improve sleep latency, circadian rhythms, and sleep cycles.
Sleep Hygiene! Quality sleep is one of the big things that can help to reduce stress levels. What is “sleep hygiene”? It’s whatever your bed time routine is. If you have a hard time getting to sleep, it’s important to get into some good habits before going to sleep. Turn the TV off a good hour or two before you are ready for sleep. Dim the lights in the house and ban blue light from the bedroom – light emitted from devices can interrupt your ability to sleep. If you must use devices then install a red light filter on them, or use a pair of red lens glasses around the house in the couple of hours before bed. Diffuse some relaxing essential oils, have a bath, do some evening yoga – all of these things will help to kick the parasympathetic nervous system in and prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. Sleeping well will have a huge knock on effect in reducing overall stress levels during the day.
Raúl Guzmán Vidal, ND
Chronic stress is often a result of a disruption in the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA), a physiological hormone system that regulates endocrine glands, including the thyroid, adrenal and sexual glands to name a few. Normalizing the circadian rhythm or better known as the sleep wake cycle is essential for restoring the hypothalamic pituitary axis. Things that can improve your sleep include having a good sleep hygiene practice such a sleeping in a dark room and following a regular sleeping schedule. Taking melatonin before going to bed can be helpful to synchronize the circadian rhythm. Combine this recommendations with exercise during the day and morning light exposure to get your HPA axis back on track. Taking adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola, eleutherococcus and withania can also assist in restoring a normal HPA axis rhythm.
Change Your Thinking
Dr. Daniel Soubhi Sima’an ND
Stress can take many different forms and the most important thing to realize is that stress is a perception and a product of your thinking. If you can control the mind you can control the stress rather than trying to control the circumstances that produce that stress.
The things we stress about are usually just an illusion, we think it’s important but really it isn’t. We think we should stress, because we learned from an early age this is what you do. It’s purely a cultural learned response, placing concern on mundane daily activities or focusing on what others think of us or our role. In fact an important focus of your day can instead be focusing on love, service, and cultivating what you think which will set your own vibration and reality.
View stress as a valuable signal for change! You are the only one in control of your emotions. What is it about your triggers that need to shift to meet your needs? Is it in your lifestyle, your environment, your perception, your expectations….?
Awareness is fundamental in stress management. Taking as little as 5 or more minutes per day to reflect on your day and connect to how you’re feeling will start to ground you in your state, needs, triggers, and daily lessons. You are in control!
Dr. Chelsea Schreiner ND
Stress is your perception of events. If you’re feeling stress, you have given that situation too much power. By learning how to process events in a more emotionally balanced way, the effects of stress won’t accumulate. This is a learned skill that may involve practice of meditation, mindfulness, journaling or creative endeavours. Potential stressors will never disappear, but your reaction to them can carry less impact with a bit of conscious effort.
Stress is a very personal thing. What makes one person stressed is completely different than another. The most powerful thing we can do to reduce stress is get rid of it… which either means we change our situation (not always easy to do), or we change how we look at it and how we feel about it. It can be that simple. And without that fundamental change, we will continue to rely on adrenal boosters or coping mechanisms to manage our stress symptoms.
According to the latest research, stress negatively impacts health when stress is negatively perceived by the person. Stress is unavoidable and often necessary for optimal performance. However, often people put them under too much stress by having unhealthy boundaries, poor self care practices and unrealistic expectations and demands that they place on themselves and others. The most effective way of addressing this is to create a list of what you love and what you hate or dread. Then figure out ways to include more of what you love in your daily lives, and remove and delegate what you dread doing. For those things that can be neither eliminated or delegated, you work on changing your perspective by reframing into something positive by finding what you are grateful about and introducing some elements of fun. Managing stress is all about finding balanced perspective, healthy boundaries and creating sacred rituals that nourish your soul.
Dr. Tasneem Pirani-Sheriff, ND
Are you stressed? Getting caught up with to-do lists and the pressures of life? Take a minute and give some gratitude. Not only does it give perspective and allow us to take a moment to look at the bigger picture, it takes us out of our head and into our hearts. The result? A smile on our face and a better ability to cope. No matter when, how or where, a little gratitude will make you feel better, guaranteed.
Thanks to technology, the work day no longer lasts from 9-5. It can be hard to “turn off” at home when our phones are still buzzing late into the evening and when we grab for them first thing in the morning (even before getting out of bed!). One trick I like is to keep my phone charging in the kitchen overnight. That way I am not tempted to check it upon waking (Yes, this means you need to invest in an alarm clock!). Allow yourself 30 minutes to wake up and get your day started before checking your phone.
Music is my first go to. It changes the atmosphere and creates a new frequency around you. Prahana breathing, tapping and exercise are all great tools, but I reckon music can change your mood instantly! Good music of course! Try it!
Dr. Sandy Huynh, ND
Acupuncture can do wonders for relieving stress. During the session, it’s also a great way for patients to disconnect from the world, and reconnect to their body.
Dr Joe Klassen, ND
Although we can spend a great deal of time on social and emotional factors, workplace issues and family concerns, an underlying problem is financial stress. It is significant because it is relentless, in that you can’t escape it at work, home or play if it is present. Now I’m not suggesting we give investment advice, but that we acknowledge this is an issue and help to direct our patients (refer, if you will) to appropriate help. A first start may be to visit your primary financial institution or an investment advisor. If debt is unmanageable, there are many debt and credit counselors who are trained in this, and often their services do not cost you money, but in fact, save money by amalgamating high-interest debts. Getting started on managing this type of stress can remove an obstacle that has prevented good efforts from being successful in managing the effects of stress.
Stress is a unique obstacle in the pursuit of health. Its an unavoidable issue in our society but the biggest problem with stress is the perception and lack of management, which causes the overall stress impact to be negative. Without our stress hormones and ability to respond to stress, we would cease to survive. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the ways in which we can manage it are essential. Simply put, I recommend patients include self care into their daily or weekly routines, do at least one thing that brings them joy and happiness into their lives most days as well as practicing mindfulness and gratitude.
Dr. Aaron Wong
Stress is a feeling that has a direct correlation to the balance between fear and love. When there are legitimate fears, stress is an asset for survival. When we project our fears from mistaken beliefs created out of past traumatic events, stress can become unmanageable. Removing this projection of our past onto our current situation is addressing the core to the causation of stress.
Dr. Brandy Strelec, ND
Long-term health habits that are essential for the management or lowering of stress include:
- In bed no later than 11pm
- Rest periods (mini vacations of 5 – 10 minutes) at least 2 daily
- Cultivate positive feelings and experiences (find things to be happy and joyful about)
- Practice deep, slow, abdominal breathing
- Appropriate Exercise (Yoga, walking or moderate aerobic exercise, low-intensity weight lifting)
- Expose yourself to early morning sunlight immediately after waking (this is the most important time of the day to be outside so is a great time for a walk)
- Music: Chants, Classical (especially Baroque), Ravi Shankar
- Movies: Films that make you laugh or feel good
- Eat a well-balanced breakfast with some form of protein (think dinner — a great breakfast should be just what you imagine a great dinner would be)
- Limit dietary sugars, starches, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and nicotine as much as possible.
Stress wrecks havoc on our bodies and our health. We can do 2 things to manage our stress – decrease the stressors (emotional, physical, chemical, etc.) or increase our resiliency (our ability to handle stress). Take a look at your life and see what is within your control:
- Balance your blood sugars with regular protein based meals,
- Move your body every day,
- Spend time with your family and friends, share and talk about what’s going on in your lives.
Decrease the stressors you can control, then increase your stress resiliency by:
- Actively getting into the parasympathetic state of being (the opposite of stress) via deep breathing or guided meditation exercises,
- Supporting your physiology with supplement nutrients like vitamin C/D/E/A/K/ and Bs.
Increasing your resiliency and decreasing your stress leads to a healthier happier you!