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Bodies of Evidence

Stress Relief is Key to Boosting Overall Health and Wellness

By Dr. Bradley Meier

Hockessin Chiropractor Dr Bradley Meier

Dr. Bradley Meier

Handling an important deadline at work, making a soccer game, caring for an elderly parent, keeping up with the news, checking in with friends on social media. Sound like a typical weekday? Life in the 21st Century can be fast and hectic, and striving for that work-life balance can be a challenge that leads to acute or chronic stress – a common trigger of symptomatic flare-ups that I find in many of my patients who are normally otherwise pain free.

Some levels of stress can be normal, but long-term stress can create or worsen ailments like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, IBS, and depression, to name a few. Recurring stress can also rob a person of energy, vitality, and enjoyment of life.

To arm yourself in the combat against unhealthy levels of stress, it can first help to understand the ways in which stress can manifest itself. Physical stress is a type of stress that can be caused by physically over-exerting your body. The cause may be something as basic as not getting proper sleep, or something physically traumatic, like suffering from a fall or a motor vehicle can be the cause.

Emotional stress can occur when you interpret your situation or environment and respond with sadness, fear, loneliness, irritability, offense or anger.

Finally, there are chemical or nutritional stressors. These stress types tax your body through poor diet, such as eating sugar-laden foods and drinks, caffeine, and fatty foods, or can affect you by exposure to harmful chemicals found in everything from cleaning products and pesticides to air pollution.

The good news is, there are a variety of things you can do to combat stress:

1. Meditation or Relaxation - These techniques, also known as mental silence, have been practiced for centuries as a means for decreasing stress. To be effective, practice meditation or quiet time for at least 20 minutes each day, and incorporate deep breathing. Yoga can also be an effective and active form of relaxation.

2. Visit a chiropractor - Stress creates muscle contraction and tension which can affect the neck and lower back. Chiropractic care focuses on the spine and can relieve the tension, pain and misalignments associated with stress <>. In fact, based on a 10-year study recently published in theAnnals of Internal Medicine (February 14, 2017), the American College of Physicians’ new guidelines include spinal manipulation for lower back pain, and suggest prescription drugs as a last resort. Chiropractic care has also been proven to lower blood pressure.

3. Get some sleep - If you work a typical 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. schedule, it is extremely important to try to get to bed before 10:30 p.m. If you stay up too late, you risk getting a second wind and not being able to fall asleep until after midnight. Though the debate continues on the optimal hours of sleep a person needs to combat stress, the general consensus is between 6-9 hours per night.

4. Take a vacation - Various separate studies have shown that vacations are not only linked to a decreased risk of depression and heart failure, they also promote brain health.

5. Eat right - It may seem easy to choose foods high in sugar for an energy boost when you’re on the go, but in the long run, these snacks can cause more harm than good and result in severe crashes in blood sugar. Sugar is known to cause diabetes and obesity, but it also has links to heart disease, a weakened immune system, and even cancer. Plan ahead and eat foods that are higher in protein and omega-3. Fish or flaxseed, for example, are rich sources of omega-3 and can improve cardiovascular health, stabilize blood sugar, improve your mood, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune system.

6. Stay active - Have you heard of a “runner’s high?” Exercising releases a boost of the “feel good” neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins can help improve your mood, as well as decrease levels of anxiety, stress and mild depression. Physical activity also can put you into a meditative state, as well as help improve sleep (see numbers 1 and 3).

And that’s not all. Other activities that can help minimize or decrease stress include maintaining healthy friendships; petting a dog; receiving massage therapy; playing a musical instrument; joining a religious community; laughing; listening to music; engaging in physical intimacy; performing art (like painting, drawing and sculpting); or writing in a journal.

Take action and begin applying these items to your routine until they become habit. You’ll feel better for it and live a happier, stress-free life!

Note: If your stress feels more serious, consider talking to a mental health counselor and/or your primary care physician. In times of crisis, please call Delaware Suicide Help Line at 1-800-262-9800.

Dr. Bradley Meier is a chiropractic physician at First State Health & Wellness—Hockessin. He integrates chiropractic care with stress management techniques for optimal pain relief and healing. First State Health & Wellness has been providing award-winning healthcare and education for over 30 years. Call (302) 239-1600 to schedule an appointment.

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