Stress doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. In fact, stress can play a role in chronic diseases like high blood pressure, obesity, and depression. Research shows that prolonged, high levels of stress can negatively impact our immune systems and promote inflammation, heart disease, and premature aging.
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee believes that many of us underplay the impact of stress on our health and wants to give people ways to protect against its harmful effects. Dr. Chatterjee believes that until people can handle or reduce stress in their lives, it will be difficult to cut back on bad habits, make profound lifestyle changes, and ultimately, improve their health.
So what are ways that we can reduce stress and live healthier lives? Dr. Chatterjee cites some from his latest book, “The Stress Solution.”
Dr. Chatterjee cites technology as a relatively new contributor to stress levels. His patients with anxiety and mental health issues spend an inordinate amount of time on social media. Studies have linked social media usage to depression in children and young adults. As a result, constant phone usage, like social media, should be used in moderation to improve mood and mental health.
Controlled breathing exercises are another tool for reducing stress as well as improving our immune system and increasing our alertness. The “3-4-5 Breath” is a breathing technique where we breathe in for three seconds, hold our breath for four seconds, and slowly exhale for five seconds.
If our jobs require us to look at a screen all day, Dr. Chatterjee recommends taking a tech-free lunch break with no screens, phones, or technology to distract us. Simply walking for 15 minutes without the stress of a phone around can also have calming effects and ease anxiety. And for bad weather days, studies have shown that simply looking at soothing photographs of nature and trees helped people lower their heart rates and manage stressful encounters.
Finding a calming morning routine that includes the 3 M’s, mindfulness, movement, and mindset, can also put us in a healthy mental state for the day. By spending 15 minutes doing something that we enjoy, a few minutes meditating, and some exercise, we can set a positive tone for the day.
And finally, Dr. Chatterjee recommends we all do one thing that gives us pleasure, make it a priority and do it everyday: “…a bit of pleasure in your life makes you more resilient,” he says.
Dr. Sonja Stilp is a spine and sports physician. She can help you find ways to reduce stress through exercise, diet, and improving your mobility. If you’d like to hear more schedule an appointment to meet with Dr. Stilp at RISE in Boulder, Colorado.