This has been a hard couple years for everyone. Stress affects all of us in different ways and at different times. If you’re like me, it can seemingly affect you at the most inopportune times and can often leave you feeling irritable, uneasy and in more pain than normal.
Stress is an inevitable part of being a human and unfortunately, it isn’t going away. One of the worst things you can do is ignore the stress or put it off. Ignorance is not bliss.
Although often easier said then done, its important to check in with yourself every now and then and figuring out how you feel and what is weighing heavy on you. It’s no coincidence that when you’re more stressed you feel the physical manifestation of your pain worsen or intensify for seemingly no reason. Remember that the mind-body connection is powerful and sometimes it might not be what you are doing physically (i.e. sitting too long or sleeping incorrectly) that is the real route to your flare up of symptoms.
Often times it can feel like things are out of your control, and sometimes this can be true. However, it is more important how we respond to the events that happen to us in our life.
Here are some of the coping mechanisms I use when I start to notice that the stress is gaining a particular hold on me:
1. Breathing and thinking “I’ve been there and done that.”
Stress in our life is not a new thing. We’ve done it before and although the stressor may seem different or earth shattering or really out of your control this time, it isn’t. You’ve likely managed to get through things much more difficult in the past and even if this is the event that tops all the others, you’re going to get through it. I tell myself this constantly. I also look back on my experiences and think “where will I be in a year from now and how will I think of this time in my life.” Most of the time I realize that the current obstacle in front of me is just a small blip in the bigger picture of life.
2. Move more - get active
I use the gym not only for my physical health but for my mental health. I ALWAYS feel better after a workout even if I feel the workout didn’t go well. I ALWAYS feel better after going for a walk even if its cold and rainy outside. There is an undeniable truth that movement will help your body auto-regulate and turn down the negative effects of stress.
3. Focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t control
Most of the time, stress is hugely focused on the things that we can’t control. If you can’t control something (like someone else actions for example) don’t let it take control of you. Focus on what your an do, how you can plan for success and what steps you need to take. I often find that writing things out is a good way to organize your thoughts in this case.
4. Look at things in a more positive light
Stressful events are often great learning opportunities. We can’t be successful without some failures, some oversights, and lots of stress. Talk about it with people who are close to you and it will often help to put things into perspective. Having a good support system is crucial. Often, times of high stress can create great times for reflection and future planning.
5. Get adjusted, take care of your body
Remember, our spines are very neurologically sensitive and can be the dumping ground for the physical manifestations of mental and emotional stress. Clearing, up the dysfunctional problems in your spine can make you feel better, think clearer and set you on a path to coping with the stress in your life.
Our bodies are adaptable and amazing at managing the adverse events in our lives (both physically and mentally). Every little action or inaction adds up and so even doing small things that may not seem meaningful in the moment will help. You’re an incredible human who has managed through so much already. You got this!
Dr. Alfredo is a health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.