Stress management and holistic health: surprise, surprise... they're connected!
It likely is not a profound revelation when you admit that you are carrying stress. We all do. It comes in different forms, some less and some more, but it exists for each of us. Small doses of stress are important, because adapting to change and being prepared for danger is innate and necessary. However, excessive amounts can have many negative effects. We each handle these stressful responsibilities or situations differently in the moment, and we each cope with it differently in the aftermath.
As a coach who aims to work with people that are in essence "stressed" - knowing that we all suffer from this - it can be difficult to communicate how imperative stress management is to our health. The idea of stress almost falls in line with the mindset of, "it is what it is, this is life." This is a feeling that I comprehend all too well. But your chronic stress is not "life." In addition to that, your unhealthy coping mechanisms for this "life" have incredibly negative effects on your body, mind, and soul - or as you may know it, your holistic health.
Unfortunately, our medical system is broken. For people like myself, maybe you as well, you have been to see a doctor for a plethora of things and either 1) been discredited or 2) been given a medication for a symptom, nothing more. I reflect on the moments over the past 3 years when birth control was seemingly the only option I could be given - or the time I was prescribed treatment for oral thrush with no explanation, not even a theory when prompted, as to how I ended up with oral thrush in the first place.
This seems to be a recurring theme for those of us who turn to holistic health options. Almost as a "last resort" kind of ordeal. Or, "I'll try anything, I'm so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired," right? And I will just say this - I do not believe it is shocking that most people interested in this approach are seemingly women. Not because we are all knowing creatures with life figured out - no. It is most likely because the system seems to repeatedly fail us in particular.
So with that being said - if you find yourself turning to a holistic approach for your symptoms (whatever those symptoms may be), now is the perfect time to also tune into your stress management. How often you experience stressors, and how you cope with them in the aftermath heavily effects the body, mind, and soul.
As an example - you may be experiencing high blood pressure and currently you are reliant upon a medication. Ready to ditch the prescription, you turn to holistic health for some answers. You know your diet and exercise are the most important piece of this puzzle - but your mental health, especially from a standpoint of reducing stressors and managing them appropriately as they arise, plays an equally important role. And throwing personal experience into the mix, reducing and managing stress appropriately often effects your physical health organically, all on its own - more than simply tackling your physical health itself.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, here are some of the physical, mental, and emotional effects that stress, and chronic stress can cause:
High Blood Pressure
Reduced Immune System
Aches and Pains
And last but not least, something I am all too familiar with - here are a few common (unhealthy) coping mechanisms for all of the above:
Managing unhealthy coping mechanisms is where I come in to play. This is what I work with clients on to reduce or remove, whatever the mechanism looks like for them. This process involves more than you simply removing alcohol from your home, replacing it with sparkling water, and then forcing yourself out of sheer willpower to stick to that plan as to not let your coach down. This process asks you to identify what is keeping you stuck, what you value, what you enjoy in this life, so that the trigger is managed appropriately in the moment and cannot fester; so that time otherwise spent on the unhealthy coping mechanisms in the aftermath can be replaced with activities, hobbies, or people that bring you the same joy you were receiving from the OG vice in the long run.
We know that an abundance of stress effects the body in negative ways all on its own. When we cope with this using unhealthy mechanisms such as the ones listed above, we double down on these symptoms and amplify anxiety and depression through harming our bodies with substances, or even harming our own finances in the process - starting the cycle over again.
This is not life.
Life is about physically surviving, yes; but it is also about connecting with others, creating, doing things we enjoy - then those things we enjoy naturally come to support our physical activity and diet in due time.
Taking a holistic approach to your health is empowering and exciting. Taking your health into your own hands can feel like a trial and error process, but with the right support system it can be a lot of fun in this way. If you find yourself wanting to identify your biggest stressors and new ways to cope with them, I applaud you. Not many people reach this level of readiness to implement a change, especially when it means taking on the challenge of the trial and error process amidst an already busy life.
If you are looking for different ideas on how to manage stress, you can find several blog posts on my website that could be useful for your own brainstorming process. Also, keep an eye out - I am currently working on a self-coaching tool to guide others who do wish to do this journey on their own (something I can relate to).
For the time being however, here is another handful of healthier outlets to try at home today:
Get creative in the kitchen - Experiment entirely, or find a base recipe online and then tweak it. Smell all the different spices and herbs and throw them in the dish, don't measure a thing (advice applicable only to cooking... baking is a science, you will want to measure those ingredients if this is not something you normally do). Once you accept that whatever you create will be edible, if nothing else, then the kitchen is your oyster.
Phone a friend - Sometimes we just need to vent to a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes we just need to call and listen to someone else talk about their day for a bit.
Take a hot shower or bath - Have a sparkling water and listen to your favorite podcast or an audiobook.
Pet your pets - Dopamine and oxytocin boosts! Take them for a walk, groom them, love on them, go to the park, do what you gotta do. They love you no matter what.
Turn on Headspace Guide to Meditation - If you have Netflix, I strongly suggest this. Get comfy and cozy. This guy is great; and if you are a visual and/or auditory learner, this is perfect for you.