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We’ve all seen the magazine headlines promoting the latest ways to deal with stress. Stress is a significant part of our modern society and is becoming ever more prevalent. It’s something we’ve all known, seen, and felt. The National Institute of Mental Health defines stress as a physical or mental response to an external cause. It may be a one-off or temporary situation, show up repeatedly, or stick around for a long time. [1]

What can we learn from stressful thoughts and feelings, and what are some ways to manage the anxiety that sometimes comes as a result? The starting point is to determine what’s contributing to chronic stress and anxiety. Are the contributing factors mental, physical, or both? Once you know the answer to that, your path to health restoration, both mental and physical, will become much more apparent.

HEALTHY AND SIMPLE WAYS TO COPE WITH MENTAL STRESS

In chiropractic care, addressing the “3 T’s” is foundational to restoring health. The concept of “traumas, toxins, and thoughts” addresses how stress alters the body’s ability to function and impacts many aspects of health. The “Thoughts” category reflects the importance of our mindset to our health status. Several studies [2] have confirmed the health benefits of maintaining a good attitude.

While choosing an optimistic perspective is simple for some, for others, it may take some help. That help may come from a friend, coach, licensed therapist, or counselor. While we use the term “thoughts” here, we understand that mental trauma or PTSD may need the help of a licensed professional.

Here are five simple ways to cope with mental stress.

1. MAKE A MENTAL HEALTH PLAN:

Figuring out your best path forward may take some stretching into new habits and trying new strategies. The goal is the same, no matter the approach used to get there, so ask yourself, will this help me restore my health? If not, don’t give up; try again. A healthy mindset significantly impacts many areas of life, from relationships to physical health to simply enjoying life! Take the time to discover your path forward.

2. IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL INPUT:

There is a popular saying among successful people:

You are most impacted by your five closest associates and the books you read.

What’s affecting you mentally? Who—or what—is speaking into your life and advising you? We don’t eat junk food and expect a nourished, optimally functioning body. The brain works the same way! Be sure you’re associating with positive, like-minded people who can encourage and support you. Read materials that stretch you and help you to grow. When you consider mental input as crucial as your physical input, you’ll see a healthier perspective begin to shine through.

3. DON’T HOLD THE PHONE:

When smartphones first came out, people assumed they’d be much more productive and work fewer hours. The opposite is true. Most people now feel as though they’re on call 24/7 and cannot put the phone down. The constant ding of the phone increases your adrenaline and cortisol levels. The increase of these hormones can create the feeling of constant stress. Many studies have linked mental health conditions to smartphone use. [3]

4. WALKING ON SUNSHINE:

Some of the best medicine is still fresh air and sunshine. Taking a break to get outside, stretch your legs, and fill your lungs with fresh air can do wonders for mental health! A change of scenery and some physical activity can bring clarity and perspective, reducing stress so you can be more productive and focused when you return to your tasks. Getting dirty also helps support the immune responses of little ones. Make a priority of getting your kids outside and encourage playing in the mud.

5. GIVE THANKS AND REMEMBER:

Recently, more and more attention has been given to the role gratitude plays in mental health. Studies show the changes in the brain with as little as a few minutes dedicated to gratitude daily. [4] You can use a preprinted journal or take a few minutes at the end of your day to reflect on the events, people, and things you are grateful for in a simple notebook. Keeping a record to look back on often helps people through future tough spots as well!

Bonus: A Few Other Techniques

These are far from the only ways you can overcome stress. People often say that laughter is good medicine. They aren’t wrong! Deep breathing, healthy relationships, donating the bathroom scale, and turning off the screens are other good options for overcoming mental and emotional stress.

MANAGING STRESS AND ANXIETY FROM TRAUMAS AND TOXINS

The definition of stress provided by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) above is a good start. But sometimes we can overlook or underestimate stress that comes from other sources, like physical trauma and exposure to toxins. When these stressors are considered, managing stress and anxiety successfully may be closer than you think.

WHAT ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS?

There are times when an imbalance of neurotransmitters — chemical messengers in the body — can cause emotional stress, mental illness, and anxiety. It’s imperative to do proper testing to get a better picture of what is affecting the mind and body. Typically, psychiatrists use a trial-and-error method to determine the appropriate medication and dosage. This experimental approach can lead to even more mental and physical stress and make things worse. Some of the side effects of these drugs are the same dangerous symptoms the person wants to address. With proper testing, we can get to the root of the problem and address the contributing factors instead of just masking the symptoms.

PHYSICAL TRAUMA AND STRESS

An imbalance of neurotransmitters isn’t the only cause of mental stress. Pain and systemic dysfunction create stress in the body, ultimately impacting mental health. When you aren’t feeling well, or are dealing with chronic illness and pain, the disruption to your daily life can lead to mental stress and anxiety. Health can often be restored with proper testing and support. Sometimes that can be as simple as a chiropractic adjustment for pain or a health restoration plan for easing dis-ease within the body.

TOXINS AND STRESS

Toxins in our environment can also cause mental and physical stress. Toxic chemicals may hide in household cleaning products, pesticides and herbicides, and even preservatives on fresh produce! Healthy foods can also cause a toxic reaction within the body if they are an allergen. The best way to manage stress from toxins is to reduce exposure in the first place. Make a point to seek out non-toxic home cleaners, clean personal care products, and be aware of possible air and water contaminants.

Eating whole, clean, organic foods is a good start, but what if you’re eating foods that cause a toxic reaction in your body? When you consume an allergen, you’re triggering an immune response. If this occurs regularly, the body’s reaction could become fatigued and lead to physical and mental stress. Many people recognize they don’t feel well after eating but aren’t always able to identify which foods are triggering that reaction.

Some parts of the immune response can be delayed for as long as 21 days (about three weeks). That would undoubtedly make pinpointing the challenge difficult! That’s why getting your allergies tested and avoiding them is so important. It’s another healthy way to cope with stress.

MOOD DISORDERS AND HEALTHY WAYS TO COPE WITH STRESS

In today’s world of “specialists,” we often want to separate the mind from the body. However, more and more scientific literature supports the connection between physical and mental health. Both play a role in overall health and significantly impact the other. It can be a confusing cycle similar to the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” scenario. Which affects which? The answer is, “yes!” Each affects the other. One may have started the cycle and caused a reaction first. But to have optimal health and function, both need to be supported.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mood disorders or debilitating stress, contact a Wellness Way clinic today to determine the contributing factors. Then you can begin your journey back to wellness, physically and mentally!

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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