Stressors are neutral—your reaction determines whether stress will be good or bad.
If you see stress as a challenge or an opportunity to be better, your patience and understanding will grow and you will be less stressed.
However, if you see stress as a threat, then it certainly will bring ill effects to your body. It wouldn’t take much to make you angry, irritable, or fearful—therefore resulting in high stress levels.
Physical Effects of Stress:
Muscle and joint pains
Low sex drive
Effects of Stress on Mood:
Lack of focus
Effects of Stress on Behavior:
Cigarette and alcohol abuse
Here are easy techniques I personally recommend to all my patients— I find these simple tricks to be the most effective ways to handle stress:
Exercise regularly. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, more commonly known as “happy” hormones. Endorphins counter stress and give a feeling of general well-being. Around 20-30 minutes at least 3 times a week is recommended. Consult a physician before starting any exercise regimen if you have existing medical conditions or physical limitations.
Avoid cigarettes and excessive alcohol. Stimulatory substances, including recreational drugs, mess up our hormonal balance and metabolic processes. As a result, this prevents our bodies from responding properly and effectively to stress. IV supplementation will help address this concern if alcohol and smoking have been part of your lifestyle.
STRESS MANAGEMENT 101
Jason A. Peñaranda, MD | January 25, 2017
Eat healthy. Proper nutrition provides the essential nutrients our bodies require to counter stress and its harmful effects. If your diet is not sufficient, consider supplementation. A nutritionist can also assess your diet to create a meal plan that is suitable for you.
Enjoy the sun. Exposing your bare skin to the sun stimulates Vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D increases the body’s ability to cope with the effects of stress. Research shows that low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with fatigue and depression. Ideal periods are before 10am and after 4pm to minimize exposure to harsh UV rays. Use natural sunscreen if your skin is fair or if you want to stay under the sun longer. Consult a physician if you have any risk for UV-related skin diseases.
Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing delivers more oxygen to the brain, which allows it to function better. This improves judgment and perspective, which in turn helps you handle stress better. Inhale thru the nose while mentally counting, hold your breath for 2 seconds, then exhale thru the mouth. The duration of exhalation should be double the inhalation. Practice this whenever possible.
Drink lots of water. Our bodies’ functions and composition are heavily dependent on water. Keeping yourself hydrated keeps your body ready to handle everyday stress. One glass every hour during the day is recommended. A good indicator of adequate hydration is a clear urine.
Meditate. Meditation and other relaxation techniques like deep breathing and yoga train the body to minimize the negative effects of stressors. Dedicating at least 30 minutes of your day for meditation and quiet time will help you respond to stress in a more relaxed manner.
Have a hobby. People who develop hobbies tend to handle stress more effectively than those who don’t. Find what you are passionate about— be it gardening, painting, photography, etc. Engage yourself in activities that will keep your mind off your stressors.
Have a sense of humor and laugh out loud. Stress reduces the body’s ability to fight infection, causing you to be more prone to diseases. Laughter counters these harmful effects by reducing stress hormones and improving overall well-being.
Surround yourself with positive people. The people you deal with can greatly affect your mindset and disposition. Choose to be around people who know how to handle stress, and who have a positive outlook in life.
Remember, stressors will always be there, but it’s your choice how you let them affect you.
Pursuing integrative medicine right after graduating from medical school, Dr. Peñaranda braved the turbulent waters of clinical practice as a pioneer of this once obscure specialty. Specializing in electronic medical education, he is known for writing many of the materials on advancing lifestyle and functional medicine, maximizing the reach of digital networks and social media. He established authority in wellness advocacies and lifestyle articles among his colleagues—a skill he uses in educating his patients in achieving their health goals.