Treating Stress

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Stress has been on my mind this past week! As I write this, I have chart notes to finish, labs to review, a couple presentations coming up and this to name a few. I love having a busy practice and challenging myself because this is where the growth happens. However, I don’t like waking at 3:30 am with a ruminating mind, or not having time to garden and cook, or ‘losing it’ when my kid hides and I think someone took her. This week I talk about HOW to identify if you are stressed and WHAT we can do about it.

To understand HOW stress manifests, it helps to understand what is happening physiologically. If you haven’t already done, so check out last week’s blog.

We know now that stress affects our hormones, so it makes sense that symptoms are often hormone related. Take acne for example. Several studies show that stress brings on acne, and one study suggests that behavioral health could reasonably be part of an acne treatment plan (1,2). Women who miss periods are more likely to have excess stress in their lives (3) and the more stress a woman experiences, the earlier she will likely experience menopause (4).

Headaches are often preceded by stressful events (5), as is insomnia (6) and obesity (7). Most notably, long term and chronic stress can suppress our immune systems and induce low-grade chronic inflammation (8). Our immune systems are designed to protect us from everything from the flu to cancer and chronic inflammation which is at the center of most diseases.

The question remains, what do we do about it?

  1. Identify the trigger. This almost seems too obvious but I have to include this. If the trigger is something like a relationship or job, it’s reasonable to reconsider its role in your life. If it’s making you sick, it’s not worth it. For me, I have been starting my mornings with Democracy Now, a radio program about world news. My days have continually been started with sounds of warfare and injustices. For a while, I switched the content to meditation music to lower outside stressors.  

  2. Sleep. I know this is easier said than done, but sleep is SO important. This is when our brains have an opportunity to shut down outside input and synthesize. I have been a poor sleeper as of late and my reaction has been to stop caffeine. Detoxing from caffeine totally sucks but for those of us with sleep issues, it makes too much sense to wean from the stimulants. There are many other suggestions for better sleep and we’ll save this for another blog topic.

  3. Meditate. Even if only for ONE minute! Meditation is the practice of mindfulness and breath. Find a comfortable seat and focus only on your breath for a designated time. There are apps that offer guided meditations. I personally use Insight Timer and find the guided meditation is super helpful for honing in my wandering mind.

Thanks for reading. This is a topic near and dear to my heart as I, too, am working to keep up with the challenges of a busy life while maintaining health.

Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722010/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28871928

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16208279

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4666866/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3611807/

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538178/

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3428710/

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24798553