8 secrets to reduce stress

The last post was about taking responsibility for our health. It’s a concept uniquely foreign to millions in the United States, but it’s a concept that’s very simple. It comes down to two factors:

1.) Eliminate stress

2.) Make better lifestyle choices

They sound simple and easy on paper or on the computer screen, but there’s more to it than just words. Today we look at the first part of that responsibility equation, eliminating stress

The truth about stress

Stress is a thought, plain and simple. You can’t take the stress out of the air on a windy day. You can’t stress eating a greasy taco from Rolberto’s Taco Shack. Stress won’t bite your nose and infect you.

Stress is all yours. Or me.

It’s all how we perceive things. Remember the old saying that life is “10% what happens to us and 90% how we deal with it.” We all experience ups and downs. The problem is that in our society, with all the talk of war, economic inequality, health insurance problems and political turmoil, the downs seem to outweigh the ups. Add to that a stressful job, a relationship on the rocks, or a car breakdown (my personal nightmare), and that can lead to serious stress.

Our bodies are designed to handle small amounts of stress, which is ‘fight or flight’. If a hungry lion comes running at you, or if you’re walking around the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, TX at midnight, turn around and run or stay and defend yourself. The truly amazing thing is that the human body can mobilize in an instant to allow fight or flight. Here’s how:

Dilated pupils– allows us to take in more of our surroundings.

Beating heart– sends more blood than usual to the muscles so that we can move faster.

Cold, sweaty skin and a pale face– because all the blood is sent to the muscles.

Rapid, deep breathing– sends more oxygen to the muscles so that they can work longer.

Decreased digestion– blood is sent away from the gastrointestinal system to the muscles in the arms and legs. Digesting that pizza can wait!

Increased release of epinephrine and noradrenaline– gives us that “bump of adrenaline” to sprint or strike!

But what happens if, instead of a lion, we spend years arguing and fighting in a marriage, or we work 70 hours a week in a high-pressure job for years? Suddenly you don’t want your pupils dilated all the time, or adrenaline rushing through your body.

Ultimately, all of these stress responses will lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism and/or a whole list of diseases too extensive to list here.

The eight secrets

The key is to know that stress is a reaction, emotional and physical, and not something that just happens to us by fate.

What if the situation you’re in is just too demanding for you to shrug and say, “Whatever happens, happens?” I went to chiropractic school and passed numerous exams. I’ve had to find a way to make student loans last four months at a time and support a wife and three kids. We all have different situations that can worry us from time to time. We also have the ability to do some things to minimize the stress we might feel.

1.) Provide specific chiropractic adjustments-Stress is one of the main initiating causes, if not the main cause, of a vertebral subluxation. Having an upper cervical spine subluxation can make one’s life truly miserable if left uncorrected. Over time, a subluxation can really add to a person’s stress. If someone experiences an illness and it interferes with their daily functioning, the added stress will only exacerbate this vicious cycle. So first of all, have your upper cervical spine checked for subluxation, and if you have one, have it corrected immediately.

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2.) Exercise– For me, intensive training is simply the cure for a stressful day. Whether it’s a 3-mile run, or countless bodyweight exercises, or a weightlifting session, I always feel better. Exercising releases neurotransmitters throughout our body that help us feel good. Not to mention that if you exercise regularly, the changes you see in the mirror will give you some confidence and boost your self-esteem.

3.) Meditate– Some people meditate by singing. Some meditate by sitting still and emptying their mind of all thoughts. Others meditate by praying. Whatever form of meditation you do, do it in a quiet place for about 20-30 minutes. You will have more common sense to deal effectively with whatever stress you may face that day. In my experience, the best time to meditate is early morning around 4-5 am. But getting up early means you need more of #4.

4.) Sleep- Ah, sleep. Such a precious commodity, at least it’s in my house. With small children in the house, this is not always possible as my wife and I would like. But if you don’t have small children, there’s no excuse for going to bed early. As the old saying goes, “To bed early, to get up early makes you healthy, rich, and wise.” If you turn off the lights at 10 p.m. every night, you’ll eventually stop needing an alarm. You get a deep, restful sleep and you automatically wake up around 4-5am, no later than 6am. When you’re well rested, things don’t hit you as much and your brain is better equipped to deal logically with issues that may arise during the course of your day.

5.) Organize- Get your life in order and it will be one less thing to worry about. Buy a daily planner, or if you’re digitally inclined, a PDA, and organize your days and weeks. Get a filing cabinet and store all your important paperwork, such as bills, receipts and personal information. Back up all the work you do on a computer onto CDs in case your computer crashes. Doing all of this will give you peace of mind and not worry about finding time for everything.

6.) Be on time- Leave early. Aim to get to where you need to be 15 minutes early. This was a big one for me. I was always late for years. I always strived to get to work, school, or church at the right time. And chances are I never got there when I was supposed to get there. Leaving early gives you time to drive without stress, even if there is a traffic jam on the highway. You don’t have to lie on the horn while slowly cursing and yelling at the rubbernecker in front of you. It gives you the ability to calmly walk to work or school and organize your materials for the day without running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

7.) Stop Watching the News- News channels make their money by playing on the public’s fears. You never see good news, mainly because it doesn’t make any money. You don’t hear about the thousands of planes landing safely around the world every day. You hear about the one that crashed. You hear about the pilots, the passengers, the crash site, etc. over and over until the next catastrophe occurs somewhere else. Sex sells, and so does bad news. If you want to reduce your stress, stop looking at this crap. I’m not saying hide in a cave, but be selective and brief with what you decide to follow. You don’t always need the details.

8.) Have Sex- You’re probably reading this last one with a dirty grin, but the truth is I wouldn’t be saying this if over 50% of marriages didn’t fail these days. And of the marriages that don’t fail, many are not happy unions. Talk about stress! I’m not talking about going to the club and taking everyone home. I’m talking about a healthy, monogamous relationship in which two people love each other. When you love your partner, sex gets so much better, and chances are you’ll have it more often. It’s hard to be stressed when you have a great sex life!

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If you sit down and make it a goal to do all of these things, I can promise you that your stress will decrease dramatically, maybe even disappear. But like I said before, it won’t be easy. You have to take the action, not just once, but every day, over and over again.