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The 6 Root Causes Series – Part 1: Stress

Article Overview
Problem: Chronic Stress
Solution: Daily Stress Relief Practices
Lifestyle Prescription®: 7-day Stress Relief Challenge

Summary: Stress is the first of Lifestyle Prescriptions® University’s 6 Root Causes that we will highlight in this series. In this article, we will look at stress related to our overall health then later in the series we will dig deeper into its connection to our specific symptoms. 

Chronic and excessive stress negatively impact our health. It’s important to balance out our stress load with stress relief practices. Relaxing, walking, and talking are a few ways to get a daily dose of relief to improve our overall health.

Problem: Chronic Stress

Stress has a huge impact on the health of our minds and bodies. [1] When we are stressed our muscles tense, breathing speeds up, our heart pounds faster, and other biological changes occur. The problem arises when this process becomes excessive and/or never-ending. Research is showing a connection between stress and several diseases such as clinical depression, cardiovascular disease, HIV, and more. [2]

We will all experience little and big stressors as we move through our time on Earth. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a stressful event can negatively impact your quality of life. Often times we try to relieve the uncomfortable aspects of stress with risky behaviors such as smoking, overeating, and drinking alcohol. These behaviors only give an illusion of relief and amplify stress in the long term. Stress is an unavoidable part of life, so it is important for us to find healthy ways to get stress relief.

Solution: Daily Stress Relief Practices

The book Changing to Thrive gives us a great starting point to get the stress relief we need. “The criteria for healthy stress management includes spending at least twenty minutes every day on intentionally relaxing, walking, or talking (seeking support) to let the stress leave your body and mind.”[3] Let’s explore each one of these options.

Option 1: Relaxing

The opposite of stress is relaxation. So, a simple solution to help us cope with everyday life stressors is to balance it out with daily relaxation. When we are relaxed our muscles loosen, our breathing slows and our heart rate decreases. [4] One study showed that one hour of simply laying on the ground while playing calming background music significantly decreased the blood pressure and heart rate variability in medical students after just 6 weeks. [5] Some of the different ways to intentionally relax are breathing exercises, stretching, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and soothing music.

You can experience a taste of progressive muscle relaxation right now by simply taking a deep breath in and with a BIG exhale allow your shoulder muscles to release. Were you able to feel the enjoyable sensation of relief for even just a brief second? We can have this feeling of relief every day by simply taking 20 minutes to unwind each day.

Option 2: Walking

In our fast-paced society, we forget the health benefits of just simply taking a walk. It is well known that physical activity is positive for our mental and physical health.[6] With this option we not only get stress relief, but we also improve our physical well-being at the same time. We can even enhance the relaxed state more by taking our walk-through nature.[7] I personally find a great hike through the forest in the mountains or even just a walk around my neighborhood to be very relaxing. Once I get back from a walk I feel more capable to handle the stressors I encounter.

Option 3: Talking

Talking can also help reduce the overall stress load that we carry. A 2022 pilot study demonstrated that study participants that were stressed reported a higher positive mood shift when given social support compared to those given no social support. [8] Others can offer us different perspectives on a situation and might be able to see solutions that we cannot. Can we get some support from another to help us find a real-life solution or inner solution to just one of the many stressors in our life? By removing just one stressor we can reduce the overall weight of our stress load. Sometimes all we need is a listening ear from a supportive person to get a little stress relief.

Lifestyle Prescription®: 7-day Stress Relief Challenge
Do you need stress relief? Then try out a daily stress management tool for 20 minutes a day for the next 7 days. Choose an action like walking, talking, or a relaxation technique from above. Then choose the time of day that you will schedule it in and where you will perform the action. Set an alarm in your phone for a specific time to remind yourself to relax and enjoy life!

My 7-day commitment is to take a walk in the afternoon through my community nature trail. Comment what you choose for your 7 days of Stress Relief and share your experience!

Lifestyle Prescription® Health Coaching:
Do you need extra help finding stress relief? Lifestyle Prescription® Health Coaches are trained to identify the stress triggers that keep us locked into a chronic stress response and know protocols to change the negative effects on us. They also will be able to create personalized lifestyle prescriptions for specific stress relief needs.

Click here to get connected to a health coach today

Author: Ashley Layle is currently studying with Lifestyle Prescriptions® University to get her Master’s in Lifestyle Medicine and is a certified Lifestyle Prescriptions® Health Coach. In 2014, she became certified in Massage and Hydrotherapy then was a Licensed Massage Therapist in Colorado for 2 years. In 2020, she received her certificate of expertise in Culinary Nutrition. She enjoys reading books, exploring nature, cooking, and spending time with her family in her free time.


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[1] Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, 21 July 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/.

[2] Sheldon Cohen, PhD. “Psychological Stress and Disease.” JAMA, 10 Oct. 2007, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/209083.

[3] Prochaska, James O., and Janice M. Prochaska. “Chapter 4: The Principles of Progress, Part 1.” Changing to Thrive: Using the Stages of Change to Overcome the Top Threats to Your Health and Happiness, Hazelden Publishing, Center City, MN, 2016, p. 34.

[4] Steghaus, Sarah, and Christian H Poth. “Assessing Momentary Relaxation Using the Relaxation State Questionnaire (RSQ).” Scientific Reports, 29 Sept. 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9522935/.

[5] Pal GK;Ganesh V;Karthik S;Nanda N;Pal P; “The Effects of Short-Term Relaxation Therapy on Indices of Heart Rate Variability and Blood Pressure in Young Adults.” American Journal of Health Promotion : AJHP, 7 Nov. 2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24200249/.

[6] JR;, Penedo FJ;Dahn. “Exercise and Well-Being: A Review of Mental and Physical Health Benefits Associated with Physical Activity.” Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 18 Mar. 2005, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16639173/.

[7] Park, B.J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T. et al. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environ Health Prev Med 15, 18–26 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-009-0086-9

[8] Guro Engvig Løseth, Marie Eikemo, Martin Trøstheim, Isabell M. Meier, Herman Bjørnstad, Anna Asratian, Claudia Pazmandi, Vegard Wathne Tangen, Markus Heilig, Siri Leknes , et al. “Stress Recovery with Social Support: A Dyadic Stress and Support Task.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 5 Oct. 2022, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453022002906?via%3Dihub#bib8.