Spring is the season of rebirth – so what better time to focus on recharging your batteries and renewing your spirit? In light of the upcoming National Stress Awareness Month (April), it’s important to take the time to relax and rejuvenate by focusing on four core areas: thinking positively, eating healthfully, maintaining proper posture and moving through exercise.
As you might guess, chronic stress can cause long-term harm to the body. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), stress has the potential to lower immunity and cause problems with the digestive and reproductive systems. Without lifestyle changes to alleviate the impact of stress on the body, health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and anxiety can occur.
While often unavoidable, stress is very manageable. Self-care may seem self-absorbed, but it’s really a very powerful form of social activism. Taking good care of oneself often activates others to change their lives for the better. Moving forward, here are a few steps you can take to become an all-natural stress buster!
Optimize Your Mindset
Thinking positively has the power to transform your life. To start, try to “be present” at all times by making a list of things you are grateful for each day. You can also start your day or week with a list of personal goals. Everything from “eat a healthy breakfast” to “take a five minute walk” is fair game! Cross off the goals you complete to build optimism by follow through.
Rethink Your Seat
Did your mother ever tell you to sit up straight? It’s excellent advice! Proper posture helps the body to burn up to 350 more calories each day, lowers the stress hormone Cortisol and even increases happiness. Many of us sit an average of nine hours each day in front of computers, mobile devices, driving or watching TV. Poor posture can compress blood vessels, increase stress levels and even make you feel more tired. Yet a few simple adjustments can alleviate the pressure that sitting for long periods of time places on the spine.
When sitting in front of a computer at work, make sure to keep elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and position the computer 18 to 24 inches from your eyes. Keeping legs perpendicular to the floor and knees bent at a 90 degree angle is also critical to keeping the spine properly aligned. Since many office chairs don’t provide the necessary pelvic support, incorporating a device like the BackJoy Posture+ can remedy the issue by tilting and floating the pelvis upright and engaging core muscles to help you sit correctly.
Shake That Body
Unleash the dopamine inside your body! Interval-based walking, playing with pets, gentle yoga or stretching can promote a more peaceful mind. With so many adults marinating in stress at the office, try to get up for two minutes every hour to get your blood flowing. Using your desk as a prop to do a quick downward dog posture also reduces back stress by relaxing the adrenal glands and lowering cortisol levels.
Live From the Inside Out
While we can’t control our environment, we can create internal resilience by enjoying foods that combat stress. Stress reduces levels of serotonin, which explains the common urge to reach for sugar to quickly medicate. Fueling the brain all day long with healthy stress-reducing foods keeps serotonin levels strong so you can resist the 3:00 o’clock gummy bear binge. A better breakfast of steel cut oats and berries will produce the calming chemical serotonin to help you overcome a stressful commute or marathon meeting. Eating healthy fats such as salmon, olive oil and almonds will help you wind down your day by supporting the blissful brain chemical “anandamide.”
A naturally occurring pharmacy is within every one of us – we just need the keys to unleash these feel good chemicals. Take the opportunity this National Stress Awareness Month to start a self-care revolution by practicing positive thinking, incorporating movement through exercise, maintaining proper posture and eating healthfully. It’s your permanent prescription for stress relief – so use as often as needed for improved mental performance, sustained energy levels, improved sleep and pain relief.