March is Stress Awareness Month, and who better to talk about stress management than our very own pharmacy intern, Sarah Luebbert!
So, what is stress and why do we have it? Stress is our body’s natural response to difficulties in our life. The concept is that in times of danger, we could activate our fight or flight response in order to survive. While we may not be in “danger,” our body still tries to help us prepare, even if these difficulties just amount to demanding jobs, family problems, and/or a lot of bad luck. The hormone that causes this feeling of stress is cortisol. While it is helpful in fighting off more physical/external difficulties, having extended periods of cortisol release can lead to other problems. Such as:
In order to prevent some of these complications, it is important to have stress relief practices that work for you. Here, we’ll talk about some unhealthy stress habits and some alternative practices
While stress makes us want to binge on junk food and take advantage of the convenience of fast food, a high fat and carb diet just isn’t the fuel our bodies need in order to fight off the feelings of stress. In fact, more often than not, it can just make the stress toll on our bodies worse. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet low in fat and salt and high in fruits and vegetables. These sorts of foods will help us ward off infections and keep blood pressure low.
Alternatively, some people forget to eat when they are stressed, which is also unhealthy. If eating doesn’t sound appealing or you simply forget, you can eat small meals/snacks throughout the day and set up reminders on your phone.
In our busy schedules, getting exercise may seem like a last priority, when in fact, there’s nothing better for stress than exercise. Exercise releases endorphins that not only make you feel good, but also slows down the release of stress hormones. Some good choices of exercise include walking, light jogging, weight training, and yoga.
Handling multiple problems or tasks is enough trouble as it is. It can seem worse when you’re trying to handle all of them in their entirety at the same time. Tasks can be a lot less overwhelming when broken down into smaller steps. Setting realistic goals and following through can help relieve stress and show progress to increase motivation.
It may be tempting to keep your problems to yourself, but one of the best things you can do is talk to others about the way you feel. Whether that be your friends, family, therapist, doctor, coworkers, or even your local pharmacist, there are a plethora of people who can help you sort through the stress. If talking to someone else really doesn’t appealing to you, even writing down how you’re feeling can relieve some of the pent up emotions.
Lack of sleep can make stress worse but going to sleep at a reasonable time can often seem like the least attainable thing. When scheduling out your day, leave enough time to get an adequate amount of sleep. If you find you’re having difficulties falling asleep, there are some healthy sleep habits you can try: avoiding caffeine for at least 6 hours before you plan to go to sleep, avoiding screens (smart phones, computers, TVs, tablets) before bed, using your bed only for sleep, getting ready for bed at the same time every day.
Not only do these vices cause a variety of health problems, both cigarettes and alcohol can worsen stress in the long run. Both offer temporary relief, but the addiction to either of these substances produces anxiety and problems of their own. Tips for quitting smoking cold turkey is using distraction tactics such as using a straw or a sucker to pretend smoke whenever the craving hits. If you’re ready to quit smoking, talk to your doctor about things you may be able to take to help you quit. Daily limits for alcoholic drinks currently recommended are 2 drinks per day in men and 1 drink per day in women.
It may seem corny to say, 'look on the bright side,' but having fun and doing something you enjoy is an important part of stress relief. Taking a break to do something you love or even handling problems in fun ways can relieve stress and break up monotony. As they say, laughter is the best medicine, and is fully endorsed by your local pharmacist.
Did you hear about the actor who fell through the floorboards?
What kind of exercise do lazy people perform?
(Ha ha! I feel better already.)
Some other habits to relieve stress include:
Here at Love Oak Pharmacy, we offer a variety of supplements that can help manage stress as well.
Fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acids): helps to reduce the release of cortisol
Ashwagandha root: improves resistance to stress
Vitamin D: helps relieves symptoms of depression and promotes heart health and healthy immune system
CBD oil: helps to lift mood, promote relaxation, and improve sleep
Dopamine supplement: Balances mood and increases motivation.
Sleep supplement: promotes sleep without making you groggy.
InsomnitolTM: Contains a combination of natural sleep aids including valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile, 5-HTP, and melatonin.
Reishi mushroom: improves feelings of fatigue and depression.
Always be sure to check with your pharmacist before starting a supplement to be sure it won’t interfere with your current medications!
If your feelings of stress are getting too overwhelming, it’s always a good idea to seek the help of a medical professional. They may be helpful on matching you to a therapy that will work best for your situation.