We all experience some stress in daily life—from the school drop-off line to urgent deliverables at work—and our bodies are designed to handle the physical, emotional, and mental responses that occur during most events. Sometimes, stress can even be motivating and provide a burst of energy to help us perform at our best. But chronic, unmanaged stress can lead to long-term health issues, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Fortunately, there are many techniques to help calm the body and mind in moments of stress. Here are a few ways to feel more relaxed and in control.
Taking an emergency break: When stress arises, pause and count to 10 before reacting. Taking time to focus and break down the problem can help you identify your feelings to respond more effectively. If a situation is not urgent, consider walking away or sleeping on it and approach the issue later with a fresh perspective.
Deep breathing: Stress releases adrenaline in the body, a hormone that temporarily causes short or shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, and a rise in blood pressure. One powerful way to signal to the body that it’s ok to relax is by “box breathing:” breathing in deeply for four seconds, holding for four seconds, and exhaling for four seconds, then repeating for up to five minutes.
Keeping a stress journal: Quickly jotting down some information about the stresses you experience can provide valuable insight into identifying issues, analyzing and understanding your feelings, and managing how to approach them in the future.
Exercising: Stress produces chemicals in the body which can trigger your muscles to tense up. While it’s not always appropriate to step away, doing something active can help move stress chemicals out of the body and reduce muscle tension. Try going for a quick walk or run around the neighborhood or doing some jumping jacks and pushups to get the blood flowing.
Being mindful: Mindfulness is experiencing each moment, no matter how difficult or intense, with presence and clarity. When you experience stress, stop and take five to 15 mins in a quiet place to close your eyes and breathe slowly to acknowledge stressful feelings, allow them to process, and dissipate.
Practicing gratitude: Taking just five minutes to regularly express gratitude can have many positive impacts on emotional and physical health, such as improving sleep, increasing energy levels, and strengthening the immune system. Gratitude is also one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction, which may help to stabilize your mood and react to life’s stressors with intentional optimism.
Finding support: Sutter Health Plus members have access to a one-on-one Health Coaching Program for stress management at no cost by calling 844-987-6095. The program provides support from a personal health coach by telephone to uncover barriers to self-management, set goals, and make healthier lifestyle choices.
Members may also self-refer to schedule secure, confidential in-person or virtual visits with a participating behavioral health provider through U.S. Behavioral Health Plan, California by calling 855-202-0984 or visiting liveandworkwell.com. Additionally, the Health and Wellness site available through the Member Portal provides stress management and health-related resources, 24/7.