Summer is coming to an end and fall is right around the corner. Summer vacations are over, and it is time for the kids to go back to school, and for adults to get back to business. For many this transition time is stressful. It is often a time of craziness - homework, sports, work commitments, school lunches, personal relationships, and more! How do you balance the demands of family, work, and kids and still have time for you and your needs?
Stress is normal. There is stress in our relationships, with our kids, in our jobs, financial stress, health stress and more. Shannon Gwash, director of wellness programs and services for Jefferson Center for Mental Health says the term “eustress” refers to healthy stress. It can be a motivator for working towards goals or pushing a person to excel. “Distress”, on the other hand, is when life starts to become too overwhelming says Gwash. According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and half reported their stress has increased in the past year. Too much stress, unchecked, can lead to illnesses because of a compromised immune system, or emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, how stress is managed is important. Here are some tips for stress management, not only for back to school but at any time!
Many of us turn to alcohol, excess caffeine, sugar, and carbs when we are stressed. These foods can exacerbate the problem and lead to poor health. The three worst categories of food for stress management and moods are sugary foods, glutinous foods, and processed foods. Alternatively, there are foods you can eat (often, not just in times of stress) that can help maintain mental, emotional, and physical balance in your body. Some foods that help calm your nervous system include bananas, oolong tea, and fermented vegetables. Berries, omega-3 fats, kiwifruit, and high-quality protein sources also have mood-boosting properties. Vitamin C-rich foods help reduce your body’s production of stress hormones while boosting your immune function to better ward off stress-induced illness. Limiting caffeine is also a good idea. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety. People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.
Putting physical stress on your body through exercise can help relieve mental stress. The benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don't exercise. Activities that use repetitive movements of large muscle groups, such as walking or jogging, can be particularly stress relieving.
- Practice mindfulness: Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness as living in the present moment. In the process of paying attention to the present moment we are more in touch with our life as it is unfolding, and not worrying about the past or the future. Massage therapy is a great way to help achieve mindfulness. Yoga and joining a Zen group also helps with mindfulness and stress management.
- Meditate: Study after study has shown that medication is a powerful stress reducer and overall health enhancer. It can be as simple as finding 15 minutes a day and using a phone app such as Headspace.
- Stay connected to your social network. Make time to spend with friends and loved ones.
- Laugh! Laughing is good for your health and can relieve stress because it brings more oxygen into your body and organs, it stimulates and relieves your stress response, and it can alleviate tension by relaxing your muscles.
There are many essential oils and proprietary blends that help with stress management. My two favorites are lavender and orange. Lavender has been shown to change brain wave patterns making people feel better. Orange can help alleviate stress and anxiety. These can be diffused or applied topically.
It is not possible to eliminate stress. Therefore, the best we can do is reduce our stress levels as much as possible by eating healthy, taking appropriate supplements to support our body, using essential oils, and practicing some of the lifestyle techniques discussed above.
If you have any questions on this information, would like more information, would like additional essential oil recommendations, or would like help dealing with stress, please contact Lynn Tandler, holistic Certified Nutrition Consultant at the Wheat Ridge location of the Cherry Creek Wellness Centers at 303-333-3493, ext 2.