Small Shifts To Heal Chronic Stress

Written by Bindiya Gandhi, M.D.

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who completed her family medicine training at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia June 2014. She completed an integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil, and she is also working on her functional medicine training with the Institute of Functional Medicine.

Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression are the cause of two-thirds of doctor's office visits due to stressful jobs, lives, relationships, etc.

We live in an overstimulated, overachieving, high-strung society and that's caused us all to be STRESSED.

We are never good enough unless we are skinnier, make more money, have a bigger house, and have more things. We are maxing out our credit cards both literally and figuratively in life.

We have to keep working more to fund our debt and overleveraged life—it's a vicious cycle.

We drink more caffeine and sleep less, so we can work more. We aren't getting enough sun, and we're eating crap because it's fast. We're impatient and don't know how to sit still and definitely don't want to listen to our minds and bodies.

We are always waiting for our next fix, our next escape, and next vacation because we need it!

Is this really our "new normal"?

As you probably know, there is no easy out—and this all eventually catches up with us. At some point you will no longer be able to sustain this hectic, overzealous, toxic lifestyle without hitting a wall.

Stress is associated with depression, HTN, heart disease, carotid artery thickness, and even cancers.

But stress is also often self-inflicted. We don't know how to say no. Our "to-do" list never ends. The multitasking life never stops because we can "handle" more and our lists just grow longer.

So, how do we fix this?

I can tell you to eat better, exercise, sleep more, meditate, stop drinking and smoking, blah blah blah—but how effective is this really? We often have to fall hard before we make changes.

We need to learn how to handle stress as it comes at us. Here are three ways to help the way you perceive stress that actually make a big difference:

Let things go

Since stress is internal, it usually revolves around emotions and the feelings we create. We sometimes cause our own stress without realizing it, so the key is finding it within to learn to let things go.

We cause drama and stress within ourselves, sometimes making situations worse. Once we can acknowledge a situation, we can release it into the universe and the easier our life becomes.

An example is being stuck in traffic; the minute you react negatively to being "stuck in traffic" you cause stress. Instead, acknowledge you're in traffic, but don't react. Instead, approach it from a place of acceptance (yup, I'm in traffic) and see how much easier the situation becomes just from that simple shift.

Do what you love.

Often people get stuck in a rut and forget what their true passion is. Ignite that love that you have for people and activities by bringing it to the forefront of your life and watch how your stress levels diminish.

When you're pouring your heart, soul, and energy into a project you love, it happens effortlessly.

Cook a meal with love and passion and it tastes delicious versus making dinner because you "have to," and it never tastes that good. The stress we bring to that dinner affects both the mood and flavor of the meal.

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Sing more.

Something that's very therapeutic that we as adults don't do often is singing.

Sounds and singing are actually very therapeutic and can release vibrations that break up blockages within us. Regardless of what it sounds like, singing can shake up the stagnant energy that sometimes causes us stress.

The next time you're stuck doing something you don't want to do, just sing or hum your favorite tune and instantly watch how your approach to your situation changes.

This is your life: your one opportunity to make changes. The cheapest medicine and best investment in your future is changing and improving your lifestyle.

You don't have to pay a copay, fight with insurance companies, buy any prescription, or pay for expensive testing. Making small lifestyle changes is free, my friends.

Start reflecting on your life and see how you can make small shifts to affect your stress levels. And, of course, if you need additional care, seek out a professional integrative and functional medicine practitioner. Remember: This is your life, and you're in control.

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