Stress Management 101

Submitted by AnneCherise Jensen

This past year has been challenging for everyone, from adults, to teens, and even children, people of all ages are experiencing high levels of stress. Being in a chronic state of stress can cause both long and short term  health problems, so it’s important to try and manage stress as much as possible. In addition to feeling anxious, many may become depressed, struggle to get a good night’s sleep or experience digestive issues. The good news is, there are many healthy outlets available to help individuals manage their specific stress factors. But first, let’s go over what stress really is, and how it can also be a good thing too. 

What is Stress? Our Bodies Flight or Fight Response 

Stress can either stem from something positive (preparing for a vacation) or negative (dealing with virtual learning at home). Stress is the natural, human reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious, and it’s something everyone copes with.  In these intense moments, our central nervous system releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones trigger the fight or flight response, which gets your body ready for action. Having a healthy portion of stress, can motivate you to accomplish tasks on your To Do List, or accomplish a series of goals. We need these stress hormones to feel ambitious and willing to take on the day! However, having too much unmanaged stress can lead to lethargy, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and other serious health conditions if not dealt with. 

Common reactions to stressful / traumatic events can include:

After a stressful event, or series of stressful events, individuals may have strong and lingering reactions. These events may include personal or environmental disasters, threats with an assault, excessive stress, loss of loved one, financial disparities, safety concerns, or simply being overworked and over exhausted. The symptoms may be physical, emotional, spiritual or all of the above. Common symptoms of having excessive amounts of stress include; 

  • Disbelief, shock, and numbness.
  • Feeling sad, frustrated, and helpless.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
  • Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems. 
  • Smoking or excessive use of drugs and alcohol. 
  • Tired, lethargic and lack of energy. 
  • Rapid heartbeat, rise in blood pressure, increased heavy breathing 
  • Sugar & salt cravings 

How Do I Deal with Stress? Stress-Busters! 

Learning healthy ways to cope is crucial for the health and well being of our emotional and physical self.  Our health not only affects us, but those around us and in our household as well. Getting the right care and support is crucial when trying to reduce those stressful feelings and symptoms. But this big question is, how can we manage and control stress? Well, we can’t always control what’s happening around us, but we can control how we react to those stressful environmental situations. When life gets hard and those negative emotions start to kick in, give these following stress busters a try! Chances are, one or more of these tips will help relieve some of the stress you are currently carrying on your shoulders. 

Slow Down, Stop what you’re doing, Take a deep breath! In today day and age, our day to day life is often filled with excessive responsibilities that keep us running from one place to the next, from task to task. When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a moment, stop what you’re doing, and focus on getting some deep fresh breaths into your brain and lungs. Taking a moment to get some fresh oxygen to your organs can help lower stressful symptoms, while also helping you think more clearly. Do this for 3-5 minutes and examine how you feel afterwards. 

Healthy Food, Healthy Moods: When it comes to food and stress, one of the best things you can do for your body is to choose a well balanced, healthful eating style. Focus on eating whole foods and eliminating processed foods.  Processed foods often contain harmful chemicals and ingredients that can add to more stress to your physical body. 

Physical Activity & Active Relaxation: Engaging in physical activities and active relaxation is one of the best things you can do to help manage stress! When we physically engage in movement, such as walking, running, or stretching, our body releases happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that help us feel happy and at ease.  The more physically active you are, the more happy brain chemicals are released. However, as little as five minutes of exercise a day can be beneficial. If you would like to visit the gym, check out the Marysville YMCA hours for business, they are open!  

Massage or Acupuncture Therapy: Both of these alternative healing treatments can be very beneficial to managing both physical and emotional stress. Treat yourself to a spa day, or visit the Tulalip Health Clinic for a deep tissue massage. 

Hobbies: Hobbies are a terrific way to destress! They allow our left brain, or the artistic side of our brain, to thrive and engage, which can be great for our mental health. Hobbies can include anything from painting, foraging, weaving, sports, playing an instrument, reading, drawing and so much more. Tune into your creative side and turn your stress into something positive! 

Socializing with friends and family Being around a supportive and loving group of individuals is crucial for our mental health. A supportive community allows us to reach out for help and encourage others when needed. Be sure to check in on your Elders and family members at this time! And please don’t be afraid to reach out to trusted loved ones if you need someone to talk to. 

Control Cravings: If stress has you craving crunchy foods, reach for lower calorie, healthful foods such as veggie chips, carrots, celery or plain popcorn. If you have a sweet tooth, try replacing ice cream and pastries with fruit parfaits, fruit smoothies, or fruit pies. Or, try modifying your favorite baked goods by adding pumpkin, banana,  zucchini and almonds in your favorite homemade bread! 

Reduce Caffeine & Excessive Sugar Intake:  Excessive amounts of caffeine and sugar can often amplify the stress symptoms you are currently dealing with. Try reducing caffeine by drinking herbal plant teas instead. They usually have much lower levels of caffeine and consist of many other great health benefits as well. Instead of loading up on sugar when the sugar cravings kick in, eat a well balanced meal that includes lean protein, and fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains or beans. Examine and see how you feel afterwards. 

Hiking & Nature Walks: Getting outside for a breath of fresh air will help rejuvenate the heart, mind and soul. Being surrounded by trees, lakes, oceans and plants is healing beyond measure. Whether you go for a quick 10 minute walk in the woods, or a 10 mile hike to the mountains, both have so much to offer! 

Avoid drugs and alcohol. Yes, these may seem to help ease the pain at first, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling. Though it can be hard or you may be struggling with addiction, I highly recommend seeking relationships with friends and family who will support and encourage sobriety. We are capable of so much more when we allow ourselves to be our best, sober, self! 

**This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP.  This institution is an equal opportunity provider.