HCA Midwest Health - May 31, 2017
by Lindsey Hill, CNM, Specialists in Women’s Care

Try this for a reality check: stress will always be a normal part of modern living, no matter what stage of life you’re in.  Chances are you know that and, like many women, live with some element of stress on a daily basis.

Engineered to experience and react to stress, the human body can deflect a normal amount. The classic stress response is fight or flight and the body, in order to cope, releases hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. We’re all familiar with it—muscles tense, the heart speeds up and senses are on alert.

Remaining in heightened anxiety can cause your physical and mental state to become unhinged in small and large ways. Being “stressed out” as you prepare for a presentation, get kids off to school or race to meet a deadline is acceptable as long as your body’s reactions quickly ratchet down.

An important component of any healthy physical foundation is to manage stress and reduce it so it doesn’t adversely impact health. Unchecked, stress can affect health if you’re facing a constant barrage of challenges with no relief. That’s when negative stress-related tension and an increased flow of stress hormones build to the point where you’re in danger of worsening or developing conditions like high blood pressure and sugar levels, heart disease, obesity, asthma, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, depression, accelerated aging and even premature death.

As a healthcare practitioner my passion is to ensure my patients develop a lifestyle that promotes health and happiness.  I help women of all ages navigate through the often-overwhelming nature of daily stress by suggesting they find balance, including “self-preservation” activities, allowing one to recharge and/or decompress.

De-stressing is up to you. The good news is that once you recognize your personal triggers, you can better manage life for a happier, healthier you. Try these six proven stress busters.

#1 Meditate. Establish a quiet place in your home where you can practice 10 - 15 minutes of meditation every morning. Light a candle, sit on the floor with good posture and close your eyes. Concentrate on reciting out loud or silently some type of positive mantra, like “I am good” or “Peace come to me.” Synch the mantra with your breaths by placing one hand on your belly.  If you need additional guidance, simply search “guided meditation” in the music app of your choice and follow along. It’s a useful tool while lying in bed at night if you’re unable to shut off the continuous wheel of thoughts. And teach children early the benefits of relaxation by practicing with your school-age kids.

# 2 Breathe. Pay attention to your pattern of inhaling and exhaling throughout the day. Take five-minute breaks and slowly inhaling through your nose, feel the breath start in your abdomen and gradually work its way to the top of your head. This conscientious exercise can help lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. 

# 3 Exercise. Develop a routine that works for you—it doesn’t have to be running, though that’s an excellent way to elevate your heart rate and log in good cardio activity. Choose yoga, walking, bicycling or swimming to help your brain release some feel-good chemicals, or endorphins, and encourage your body to work with stress. Even stretching exercises or a brisk walk from your car to the office or grocery store (the objective is to park as far away as possible) is a step in the right direction.  Not only does this relieve stress, it contributes to OVERALL health and sets an excellent example for our children and other family members that exercise is a normal part of healthy living. 

# 4 Decompress. Keep a wrap in your office that you can warm in the microwave. Place it around your neck and shoulders for eight to 10 minutes; close your eyes and relax face, neck, upper chest and back muscles. Then use a small ball (tennis ball or foam roller) to massage away tension by placing it between your back and the wall, leaning into the ball and sustaining gentle pressure for 15 seconds. Continue the routine for five minutes.

# 5 Practice Gratitude. This has far-reaching effects on keeping stress at a minimum and enhances your emotional spiritual outlook. Keep a lovely journal by your bedside and, every night before you turn the lights off, record five things for which you’re grateful. The trick is not to repeat and to authentically reflect on all the good things in your life. Before you know it you’re kicking negativity to the curb, where it belongs.

# 6 Prepare. Being prepared—or organized—in life can help you dodge constant stress. If you have school-age kids, fix lunches or snacks the day before. For quick dinners, think smart: If you’re throwing chicken breasts or burgers on the grill, add extras so you have them for future meals. Download easy dishes from your favorite recipe website, shop for ingredients on Saturday and cook on Sunday. Hire someone to help clean your house, mow your yard or do other things around the house that cause stress (and avoidance, which can cause more stress). Divide chores around the house with your spouse or partner—and if your kids are old enough, add them to the rotation, too. Not only will it lessen your stress of solo housekeeping, it will teach them accountability and responsibility.

tags: midwifery , t4b