Following on from her last post about stress and tension headaches, icpc Health’s resident massage therapist Nicole Christie is back to share:
why it’s important to look at the bigger picture when considering stress
the two main areas to consider if you want to treat stress in the long-term
5 tips for managing the causes of stress in your daily life
3 online resources that will help you manage your stress levels
how massage can be used to combat stress
Looking to treat stress long-term?
As mentioned in my previous post, if the body remains in a constant state of fight or flight, it will eventually wear itself out.
You wouldn’t stick a plaster on a gaping wound would you?
So instead of constantly fire-fighting stress when it hits, make sure you have a toolkit of coping strategies that become a lifestyle. Two main areas to consider for addressing stress and pain long term are Mental Health and Lifestyle Habits.
2 Strategies For Maintaining Your Mental Health
1. Talk About It
Rather than letting stress take over your life, try talking about it.
Consider talking to a therapist. Talking to someone you don’t know personally can be incredibly cathartic, allowing you to just get everything out of your system without fear of upsetting or worrying anyone close to you.
As well as helping you get your stress and worries off your chest, therapists can also:
help you to understand the root causes and triggers for your stress and anxiety
give you coping strategies that can help you manage anxiety and stress
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to friends and family – if you have people around you, absolutely talk to them! Let them know how you’re feeling as they may have no idea what you are going through.
We humans have become very good at masking our struggles, but it’s important to let those close to us know what we’re dealing with and accept their support – even if it is just a chat over a cuppa!
Sometimes getting things off your chest is all you need.
2. Embrace Mindfulness
This is really all about being in the moment - whether that means doing some belly breathing, taking a walk in nature, listening to music, writing, painting or anything else that brings you joy. The important thing here is to focus on the activity, which can help take your mind away from negative thoughts and stress.
My colleague Angela Wilken here at icpc Health actually runs regular Mindfulness workshops, if you’re interested in learning more about it.
3 Lifestyle Habits To Help Combat Stress
1. Develop A Sleep Routine
Stress and pain can significantly impact your sleep. Sleeping too little or too much can both be damaging to your health. We need just the right amount of sleep to heal and recover, so when we are not getting enough quality sleep our mental and physical functioning suffers. Creating a sleep routine can help you to wind down for the night.
You are what you eat, right? When we are stressed we tend to reach for the most sugary or salty treats, which give a quick boost but soon enough will bring us crashing down in a few hours... It’s important that you are fueling your body with healthy choices that provide you with all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs and give you enough energy for the day.
You might find it worthwhile to consult a dietitian, who can provide expert advice and support tailored to your unique needs. I can heartily recommend Grace Chau here at icpc Health.
Exercise can release endorphins and other feel-good hormones. These hormones interact with opiate receptors in the brain, helping to alleviate pain, which in turn makes you feel happier and ultimately calmer. Understandably, you may not feel like doing a heavy HIIT workout or similar when you’re feeling tense and in pain, but other more gentle exercises such as yoga, Pilates, or even just a brisk walk can still get the blood and hormones flowing.
Where can I find more advice for managing stress online?
Over the past year or so, mental health has become a topic more important than ever. We are never going to be able to go through life without stress, but we can definitely take more control over how we respond to it.
Here are my recommendations for online tools to help managing stress and anxiety:
This app is great for helping you take time out for yourself, de-stress and practice mindfulness.
This website also a great resource for mental health support. It can also help point you in the right direction for talking therapies and counselling.
When we sleep better, we feel better. This app can help you establish a night time routine for better, healthier sleep.
How Can Massage Help Me Feel Less Stressed?
Massage helps calm the body and mind by working with the body’s tissues and nervous system to encourage a relaxation response. As the body relaxes, so too do the muscles, while blood circulation increases to the areas being worked on encouraging healing of any damaged tissues.
It can help boost the immune system by encouraging the flow of bacteria fighting cells, improve sleep, ease pain and assist better movement.
Isn’t Self-Care A Little Indulgent?
If left untreated the current physical symptoms could progress and affect other parts of the body through sensitization of the nervous system. Regular treatments of the physical and mental symptoms will help prevent frequency, recurrence and severity of pain, as well as reduce likelihood of new issues presenting further down the line.
Often it is hard to do the things you know you should and need to do. Life gets in the way and can make it feel impossible to know where to start, what is best, and how to keep the good habits going. That’s exactly what it is though: a habit. Self-care more than anything else needs to become an essential daily habit - not just something you allow yourself if you have time.
Making the decision to take better care of yourself and your needs is the first step in achieving a healthier happier you.
It’s not selfish… It's necessary.
Nicole Christie is ICPC Health’s resident Massage Therapist, specialising in Remedial and Sports, Swedish and Oncology Massage in Aberdeenshire. Click here to book a first appointment with Nicole, or give us a call on 01467 633 444 for more information.