Everyone encounters stress at some point in life. Maybe you are experiencing a major life event like divorce or loss of a loved one, struggling with addiction or just having a tough time managing your day-to-day routine. Regardless of the cause, stress can quickly wreak havoc on your body, mind and spirit so it’s important to learn how to manage it.
Duane Olberding and Kellie Strube are behavioral health therapists at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission and specialize in helping people learn ways to handle stress.
According to Olberding, one of the best stress-relief tools is exercise, and morning exercise is most beneficial.
“If you exercise in the morning, your anxiety will decrease up to 50 percent throughout the day,” says Olberding. “This is because exercise brings your heart rate and metabolism up and lets more oxygen and nutrients get to your brain early in the day.”
While exercise is a physical skill for relieving stress, spiritual skills such as a strong faith and serenity can be effective too.
“If you are spiritual and believe God has a plan for you, then just living each day and knowing God will take care of you can lower anxiety,” says Olberding.
Serenity, or the idea of being calm and peaceful, can also help you destress. Serenity works best when you accept that you cannot be in control of everything. Figure out what is bothering you that is out of your control, then use serenity and prayer to calm your mind.
For some, the key to stress-free living may be their ability to redirect thoughts. Find a way to help others such as volunteer work or offering assistance to a friend or family member, which takes the focus off you and puts it on someone else.
Practicing mindfulness is another popular way to lower stress. Mindfulness is about living in the present moment and being aware about what’s happening inside and around us. Strube teaches the concept of mindfulness to help people get through tough times.
According to Strube, there are three steps to practicing mindfulness. First, check in with yourself and be aware of your feelings. Is something weighing heavy on your mind or do you feel butterflies in your stomach? Next, describe what you notice. Are the feelings you are experiencing anxiety, fear or panic? Finally, take action. Once you’ve identified your feelings, find ways to alleviate them such as taking a walk or calling a support person.
“It’s easy to judge the feelings we notice so be non-judgmental when practicing mindfulness,” says Strube. “For example, let’s say I recognize feelings of panic and tell myself that I shouldn’t be panicking because people have it so much worse. I still feel panicked, but now I also feel guilt and that’s not helpful.”
Another way to use mindfulness is to focus on one thing at a time instead of many different things. So if you are eating dinner, only concentrate on how the food tastes. If you go for a walk, focus on each step.
No matter your stress level, it’s important to not ignore your feelings, try different ways of dealing with stress and find the techniques that work best for you.
To learn more about AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, visit AdventHealthKC.com.