8 Healthy Ways to Cope With Stress

Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month. According to The American Institute of Stress, approximately 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress, 77 percent of people report experiencing stress that affects their physical health and 73 percent of people report having enough stress that it impacts their mental health. Our body is designed to handle acute, short-term stress. However, chronic on-going stress can have a negative impact on our health. 

What Is Stress?

There are three types of stress which include acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress. 

Acute stress

Acute stress is short-term and examples include being stuck at a red light, traffic, a work deadline, crowds and running late. These are stressful moments that when they pass our stress levels should resolve and no longer impact our well-being. 

Episodic acute stress

Episodic acute stress is when acute stress is happening on a regular, repeating basis. Examples of episodic acute stress include being stuck in traffic everyday on the way to work or a high stress career such as a healthcare worker.

Chronic stress

Chronic stress is when we experience stress on-going over a long period of time. Examples of chronic stress include addiction, an unhealthy relationship, living in a high-crime neighborhood, an illness or a toxic work environment. 

Different kinds of stress need to be tackled differently

Stress Effects On The Body

Feeling stressed is a natural, automated response from our body as a way to help protect us from threats, danger or predators. 

When we are faced with a stressful situation, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which increases glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream to provide energy for our brain and muscles to flee from danger. 

However, today many stressors include moments such as sitting in traffic, a stressful email or an argument. The body experiences an increase of cortisol and glucose, without physically fleeing or running away from the situation, for example reading a stressful email. Overtime, high levels of cortisol and glucose can have a negative impact on our health. 

Chronic stress can increase the risk of developing physical and mental health problems such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep Problems
  • Digestive Issues
  • Impaired Gut Health 
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Weight Gain
  • Muscle Tension 
  • Impaired Memory and Concentration

What Causes Stress?

The top most stressful life events include: 

  1. Death of a loved one
  2. Divorce
  3. Moving
  4. Illness or injury
  5. Job loss
  6. Financial troubles
  7. Traumatic events
  8. Relationship issues 

Ideas for Healthy Ways To Deal With Stress

8 Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress

There are a number of habits we can implement to support our body during times of stress and to help our body cope with stress to lessen the negative impacts on our health. 

1. Self-Compassion

Practicing self-kindness is important when feeling external pressure and stress. This can look like deep breathing, speaking kind words to yourself, taking a break, making yourself a cup of tea, taking a bath, saying words of affirmations, talking with a therapist or talking with a trusted, safe person about your feelings. 

2. Rest

Sleep is critical for our cognitive, emotional and physical health. Lack of sleep can lead to higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. 

3. Movement

Movement is a form of physical therapy that can help the body process nervous and anxious energy and help the body release some of the negative energy. Exercise and movement can also induce endorphins, which is a hormone that helps us feel happy. 

4. Nutritional Support

When we are stressed our body uses a larger amount of b vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Individuals with chronic stress may find that they are more likely to be depleted from these nutrients. Eat foods rich in B vitamins, magnesium and zinc such as beans, pumpkin seeds and dark leafy greens to give the body a boost of nutrition during stressful times. There are a number of foods to eat on a daily basis to support mental and emotional health, read more here!

5. Eliminating Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant and for those prone to anxiety, caffeine may exaggerate symptoms of anxiety. Be mindful how your body and mind feels after a cup of coffee or any other caffeinated beverage and cut back if you notice you are feeling more on edge, agitated or have trouble sleeping.

6. Reducing Intake of Added Sugar

It is common to crave sugar during times of stress. However, in short an on-going overconsumption of sugar can cause imbalances in certain brain chemicals. Sugar can also provide an energy boost, followed by an energy crash which can impact energy levels, mood, concentration and more. There are also a number of wellness habits we can implement to better support blood sugar balance. We also know that a high sugar diet can have negative impacts on cognitive health. 

Purecane Sweetener can help reduce sugar intake without feeling like you're missing out on sweetness

One great resource for adding sweetness to meals, snacks and beverages without the glycemic impact is Purecane! Purecane found a revolutionary way to ferment sugarcane to make it into a zero-calorie and low glycemic sweetener. It contains no artificial chemicals or GMOs. Purecane has a Baking Sweetener that is perfect for cooking and baking. There are also Individual Packets or a Canister for adding a touch of sweetness to drinks. It tastes like sugar because it's made from sugar - without the traditional sugar spike!

7. Hydration

When we are dehydrated this can increase our heart rate and blood pressure, which can result in similar symptoms as anxiety. Dehydration can also cause brain fog and result in feeling on edge. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day. 

8. Meditation or Prayer 

Both meditation and prayer are habits that can help slow down the mind and body. By slowing down, we can help the body to not feel in danger, but rather in a state of calm and in a place of safety. By focusing on one’s breathing, sitting in stillness and focusing on a positive affirmation such as “I am safe” and / or engaging in prayer, have both been proven to have a positive impact on one’s overall health, well-being and helping to reduce the impacts of stress. 

Meditation or Prayer - even in small doses - can help reset your body when you're under stress

Take Away

While stress is a common symptom of our busy, modern world, there are many coping techniques, dietary and wellness habits we can implement to help lessen the impacts stress has on our health. 

You can stay connected with Megan Roosevelt, RDN on Instagram at @HealthyGroceryGirl, watch recipe videos at YouTube.com/HealthyGroceryGirl or visit her recipe and wellness blog at HealthyGroceryGirl.com

See how Purecane does healthy lifestyle choices on Facebook and Instagram