The holidays are supposed to be full of love and joy, but for many it is a time of sadness, heartbreak, and anxiety/stress. If you are struggling with any of these emotions, trust me you are not alone. Maybe it has nothing to do with the Holidays and you are stressed and anxious year round. Hopefully by the time you finish reading this blog, you will have some applicable tools to help reduce your anxieties and stress today.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF STRESS ON THE BODY
When you are stressed your body produces a hormone called cortisol, which is actually essential for life. However, excess cortisol can cause weight gain (primarily around the abdomen), insulin resistance, sleep disturbances, anxiety, headaches, decreased immune system, heart disease, and inflammation. Overtime, this chronically elevated cortisol can cause your adrenals to become exhausted leading to fatigue, decreased focus, lack of motivation, and depression. It is important to implement stress reducing techniques and supplements/medication as needed to prevent these unwanted symptoms.
STRESS REDUCING TECHNIQUES
Deep breathing is a simple but effective technique to reduce stress. Start by placing both feet flat on the ground, breath in through your nose and fill the bases of your lungs. Hold your breath for a few seconds and slowly exhale through your mouth; repeat this cycle 3-5 times. There are a number of free apps to help guide you through deep breathing; my favorite app for this is called Calm.
Meditation or prayer depending on your spiritual believes this is an excellent way to quiet your mind and center yourself. It is easy to become consumed by your emotions and negative thoughts; however it is essential to be able to shift your focus from negative thoughts to positive affirmations. Here is a website that lists positive affirmations for a number of negative feelings that may arise throughout your life. If you have the ability, say these affirmations aloud over and over again until you believe them.
Take an epsom salt bath with lavender to help reduce stress and anxiety. Epsom salt is rich in magnesium, which is a calming mineral. It will help relax any tense muscles and help improve your sleep if you take a bath at night. Lavender has been shown to help reduce anxiety making it a great addition to Epsom salt.
SUPPLEMENTS TO HELP REDUCE STRESS/ANXIETY
If the above stress reducing techniques do not help reduce your stress and anxiety, it may be time to try supplements. 5-HTP and pharmaGABA are two of my favorite supplements for stress, anxiety, and depression.
5-HTP is a chemical that your body makes from tryptophan, the amino acid found in turkey and several other foods. Once tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, your body then converts it into serotonin or the “happy neurotransmitter”. Taking this at night can help with sleep, stress, anxiety, and depression. Do not start 5-HTP if you are already on a medication to help boost serotonin (Prozac, Celexa, Cymbalta, Zoloft, etc); too much of a good thing is never good!
If you are very anxious during the day, pharma GABA may be a better option for you. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter in the body that helps balance the excitatory neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Taking 100 mg of pharma GABA two to three times per day may tremendously reduce your anxiety.
Still struggling with stress and anxiety? I would love to work with you through this Holiday season and in 2017.
Kristin Oja, DNP, FNP-C, PT-C