The Power of Mind Over Matter

Between our hectic lives filled with demanding jobs, family responsibilities, financial obligations and busy schedules, we may become overwhelmed with a variety of emotions and feelings, including stress. Stress is your way of responding to any kind of demand.1 This type of demand can be physical such as physical danger or could be emotional such as worry over your job. How does your body respond during stress? During stressful situations, your body releases different hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol. “These hormones cause your muscles to become energized, blood pressure to increase, and everything that's not essential to surviving, such as digestion, growth and reproduction to turn off.”2 This response is beneficial to humans when the “fight or flight” response is needed to escape from impending physical harm or danger. However, this same response can be elicited simply by our thoughts. Imagine the impact that this response can have day after day. Stress can suppress your immune system, impair your gastrointestinal tract, and increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The good news is that with proper stress management, your risk for these diseases and conditions decreases. Unfortunately, although the majority of adults understand that stress has a strong impact on a person’s health, a sizeable minority still think that stress has only a slight or no impact on their own physical health (31 percent) and mental health (36 percent). What are some of the ramifications of stress? According to the Stress in America survey, 29 percent skipped a meal due to stress (31 percent in 2010), 39 percent reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods (40 percent in 2010), and 44 percent reported lying awake at night, the same number as in 2010. Therefore, stress can result in the manifestation of overeating, lack of sleep, and the development of unhealthy eating habits.

Taking small steps everyday to reduce your stress level can have physical and emotional benefits. Start by adding one or two of the following tips to your daily routine to help you stress less!

  1. Meditate: Mediation and deep relaxation techniques have been shown to create positive changes within our bodies. In one study, the benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice: the more people practiced relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.3
  2. Engage in mindful eating: Are you eating because you are truly hungry or using food as an emotional crutch? Instead of reaching for the cookies after a stressful day, try diverting your attention from the kitchen cabinets and focus on engaging in a good book or a fun activity.
  3. Utilize social media: Need to take a breather or two? Check out calm.com for guided meditation or download the free relaxation application, Relax Melodies, on your phone for white noise ambience for sleep, mediation, and yoga.
  4. Engage your senses: Aromatherapy has been used as technique for stress relief. Try adding a spritz of lavender to your pillow to create a more relaxed sleeping environment. Lavender is associated with improved cognitive performance and enhancing deeper sleep.4
  5. Exercise: going for walk or engaging in physical activity helps to release endorphins which can help to reduce stress and help you sleep better. It can also improve your mood. Physical movement can help you channel daily frustrations and release tension experienced throughout the day.
  6. Heather Shasa MS, RD

    References:

    1Understanding and Dealing with Stress. http://www.mtstcil.org/skills/stress-definition-1.html
    2Schwartz, Mark. Robert Sapolsky discusses physiological effects of stress. 7 Mar 2007. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/march7/sapolskysr-030707.html
    37 Health Benefits of Meditation. http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/7-health-benefits-of-meditation
    4Lavender Aromatherapy for Stress Relief. http://stress.about.com/od/products/tp/lavender_aromatherapy.htm

    To Your Health from Center for Orthopaedics
    Center for Orthopaedics offers patients the full range of orthopaedic expertise. Patients are treated for every orthopaedic need, from simple to complex—all by one team, in one facility, with one overriding high standard of care. We are committed to the overall health and quality lifestyle of our patients. That is reflected in the information we provide you here.