Rethinking Your Approach to Stress: A Guide to Navigating 2020

2020 has thrown an abundance of added stress at many people in one form or another. It’s really important to get a good handle on managing the stress thrown at us in life as it can negatively impact our physical and mental health when it is unchecked. Stress is not inherently a bad thing, as it may bring upon growth and development, but when it comes at us on a chronic basis or at a higher level than we are able to work through, it can bring us down in the form of depression, chronic fatigue, sickness, etc. In a year when the focus is on our ability to avoid illness, it is best to support our bodies to adapt to the stresses it faces and prevent added vulnerability.

Too much stress is certainly an issue, but what about how we are handling it in the first place? Often times our problem is not simply that we have stress, but rather that we have an inability to adapt to it. If you are not able to adapt to the stress thrown at you, any efforts to reduce it will not be as effective.

One big problem with handling stress is that many ways we cope are further enablers of the stress we face, whether it is smoking cigarettes, consuming large amounts of alcohol, relying on caffeine to get us through the day, binging on unhealthy foods, or indulging in toxic relationships.

What can we do to more effectively manage the stress in our lives, especially when it seems to come in waves right after one another in years such as this?

Reduce stress as we are able. Avoid toxic environments and relationships as often as you are able to. Be mindful of what you are saying “yes” to and don’t be afraid to say “no” to projects or undertakings that are unnecessary and do not spark joy in your life. Ask for help when you need it, and be willing to receive it when appropriate. This may be in accepting material items or donations, moral support from a friend or family member, or seeking out a therapist to work through more serious matters. In her book, Do Less, author Kate Northrup addresses time and energy management strategies in those who are ambitious but want to avoid burnout, aimed towards women and moms but with principles applicable to everyone.

Improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress. Chiropractic is focused on removing interference to the spine and nervous system, ultimately allowing our body to better adapt to the stresses it faces. When regularly utilized, one may notice they are more easily able to adapt to the stresses they face on a regular basis, or at a moment in time when they are under more duress may be able to better navigate through without significant setbacks. Diet plays a role in our body’s ability to adapt as well. When we are eating a cleaner diet (think whole, real foods), our body is under less stress processing our intake, supported by the nutrients received, and able to better function on a daily basis whether it is facing regular challenges or an abnormal load. On the contrary, our diet may be a source of chronic stress in itself if we tend to eat a more inflammatory diet, creating its own problems. It is one potential stressor that we are able to control-choose wisely. Getting adequate sleep allows us to better adapt to daily stressors as well, as we are able to think more clearly and function properly when well rested. Several other ways to improve our body’s function and ability to navigate daily stressors is to maintain adequate water intake (aim for half your body weight in ounces daily) and to regularly move our bodies. This may mean walking, running, hiking, biking, yoga, exercise class, or something else that you enjoy doing. Whatever you are doing, try to get at least 30 minutes or more of activity in daily.

Be mindful of how you are coping with stress in your life currently, and consider if it is bringing you closer or further from where you want to be.

In good health,

Dr. Emily

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