Reducing Stress: 10 Tips to Eliminate Its Emotional and Physical Symptoms

We’re all familiar with stress. Even without the added tensions of a global pandemic and grueling presidential election, chronic life stressors like divorce, college exams, loss of a loved one, or job insecurity are nothing new. 


But stress isn’t just emotionally and mentally draining, it can also be physically harmful. Constant stress increases the body’s cortisol and interferes with thyroid hormone production. These chemicals play an important role in regulating metabolism, maintaining blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, and strengthening the immune system. Too much stress can even decrease the body’s supply of lymphocytes (the white blood cells of the immune system that help fight off infection and harmful antigens). 


Many of my patients initially come in due to a physical issue only to learn that their health problem was actually predominantly stress-induced. So reducing stress is essential not just for improving one’s emotional and mental wellbeing, but for improving one’s physiological functions as well. And while chiropractic sessions do help eliminate symptoms of stress, there are plenty of little everyday actions anyone can do to prevent stress from ever manifesting as a physical problem—no doctor’s appointment required.


As a practicing chiropractor and healthy living enthusiast, these are my 10 tips for how to reduce stress and boost the immune system.

We’re all familiar with stress. Even without the added tensions of a global pandemic and grueling presidential election, chronic life stressors like divorce, college exams, loss of a loved one, or job insecurity are nothing new. 


But stress isn’t just emotionally and mentally draining, it can also be physically harmful. Constant stress increases the body’s cortisol and interferes with thyroid hormone production. These chemicals play an important role in regulating metabolism, maintaining blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, and strengthening the immune system. Too much stress can even decrease the body’s supply of lymphocytes (the white blood cells of the immune system that help fight off infection and harmful antigens). 


Many of my patients initially come in due to a physical issue only to learn that their health problem was actually predominantly stress-induced. So reducing stress is essential not just for improving one’s emotional and mental wellbeing, but for improving one’s physiological functions as well. And while chiropractic sessions do help eliminate symptoms of stress, there are plenty of little everyday actions anyone can do to prevent stress from ever manifesting as a physical problem—no doctor’s appointment required.


As a practicing chiropractor and healthy living enthusiast, these are my 10 tips for how to reduce stress and boost the immune system.


1) Practice Positive Affirmations

Before you scroll away from the perhaps overly optimistic phrasing, allow me to explain. Yes, affirmations can be as bold as standing in front of the mirror every morning and declaring “I am inspirational!” or “My life is wonderful!” But it can also be a few calm moments before getting out of bed, where you tell yourself that today is going to be okay. 


Imagine a mini-meditation session to practice awareness and positivity. Maybe you start a gratitude journal. Or even just reserve a couple minutes for deep breathing, for just enjoying this time and momentarily putting away your to-do list.

 

2) Exercise  

Frequent exercise helps lower your body’s stress hormones and releases endorphins (which activate your brain’s opioid receptors, creating those happy feel good vibes). 


If parkour and weightlifting make you happy, go for it. If not, no worries. The goal is simply to work up a little sweat. And to do it regularly. Try Zumba or at home yoga. Or take a long walk outside.  Go on a hike or pace around your backyard a bit. And whichever exercise program you subscribe to, be mindful of any negative thoughts (the “I’m not strong enough” and “I probably look ridiculous” kind of thinking) and just focus on the motions. 


3) Try Aromatherapy

Never underestimate the power of good smells to combat stress. Our olfactory response is highly effective at reducing anxiety. Calming scents like lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood can also help with headaches. But really, whether you go for one of these popular scents, or for the childhood nostalgia of a bubblegum scented essential oil, or maybe a seasonal Christmas Cookies candle, the point is to choose scents that soothe your nerves. 


4) Listen to Music

There’s a reason why lo-fi music gained rapid popularity this year: the predictable and repetitive soft sounds help listeners relax and focus, even amidst a truly unpredictable and chaotic period. Music has the amazing ability to transport the mind somewhere else. Happy songs really do make listeners feel better. So crank up the tunes during your workout, play some lo-fi while you work, or try an impromptu karaoke session with your roommates.


5) Maintain a Balanced Diet

I think we’re all familiar with the dreaded Food Pyramid. We know that drinking more water, and eating more fruits and vegetables are the hallmarks of every diet plan. And I don’t mean to suggest that everyone must convert to veganism or uproot their entire diet. But small, sustainable changes can make a huge difference. 


Just reducing caffeine intake and consumption of high-fat high-sugar foods, for example, helps to reduce long-term stress and increase energy.  Comfort foods are only comforting while consumed. An hour or so after eating, that sluggish feeling sets in and those looming deadlines will seem even more stressful now that you have zero willpower. 


6) Try Vitamins 

If your daily diet is short on these essential nutrients, try using vitamins to supplement your meals. Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, for example, can be highly effective against seasonal affective disorders (commonly referred to as “winter blues”).  


Or maybe you try a more natural supplement formulated by Yangseed Planet. We use a formula of amino acids, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, energizing vitamins and minerals, not only to boost your immune system and reduce stress, but to combat fatigue and anxiety, nourish the brain, and laser your focus as well.


A quick disclaimer: if you are currently taking any medications, please consult your doctor beforehand. 


7) Spend Time with People

Positive physical contact releases oxytocin (AKA the cuddle hormone) which helps lower both blood pressure and stress cortisol levels. As a bonus, it also provides a nice warm and fuzzy feeling. Grab a family member, significant other, or fluffy pet, and literally snuggle the stress away. Maybe try swapping foot rubs or back massages.


I realize physical contact is hard to come by during a raging pandemic, but even just talking to another person can be beneficial. Talk over the phone or on a video call. Or if local regulations (and weather) permit, mask up and meet a couple friends outdoors. And know that it’s alright to let friends and family know when you’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.


8) Write Things Down

Poor time management and procrastination only serve to increase stress. All-nighters just before an exam are never fun. Instead, I recommend planning what needs to get done and then physically writing them down in order to avoid any last-minute panic attacks.


Break down longer projects into small bits. This way, you’re essentially creating a series of realistic daily goals. So instead of stressing over a distant deadline, you’re consistently accomplishing your goals and honing crucial time management skills.


9) Create Something

You don’t need Nick Offerman-level carpentry skills to create something. Completion of a small arts and crafts project or adult coloring book can provide just as much satisfaction as a newly whittled chair. Pick up a new hobby or revive an old favorite. Again, this is all about what you enjoy doing, not what hobby is en vogue. Plant an herb garden and expand your cooking repertoire. Paint a picture or write a story. Whatever you choose, allow space for creativity and interpretation. This is your project—no need for strict rules and deadlines.  


10) Take a Break

2020 has been a difficult, hectic year for everyone. And if nothing else, I hope readers leave with reassurance that it’s perfectly okay to take a break. Avoid over committing your time and energy by scheduling time for yourself. Start a self-care regimen or catch up on a favorite show.


Take a break from social media and news outlets. Replace a few hours of screen time with a good book or board game. Or sit on a park bench and watch the world unfold. 


We don’t know what 2021 will have in store. But stress is a certainty. Fortunately, like most things in life, combatting stress only gets easier with practice.

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12/31/2020 by Lauren Wittig

This was a great read and an excellent way to share your knowledge with people like me who live so far away. I miss seeing you!!!

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