How to Reduce Stress to be Healthy and Happy By Living Well – Dr. Victoria Smithers


By Dr. Victoria Smithers MD on Incline

Hi my name is Dr. Victoria Smithers. I am a Family Medicine Doctor and I work at Harbor Heights Family Medicine outside of Dallas, TX. I’m the owner of Blue Skies Wellness Seminars and I speak about living stress free. Our mission statement for Blue Skies Wellness is, ‘To educate and encourage others to live life to the fullest, through personal growth and strong faith. I would love to talk to you today about 10 Simple Steps to Find Stress Relief Every Day.

One thing life has shown me is that everyone has a story. It seems that suffering, pain, loss, and tragedy are common factors for a lot of human beings. Life’s challenges lead to stress, and in many situations, can often lead to mental illness and other physical problems. Follow these 10 simple steps to find stress relief every day.

What Causes Stress, Anxiety, and Panic Attacks

I have been in private practice since 1999, and I often see people complaining about stress related illness and having problems with anxiety, generalized stress, and even anxiety disorders like panic attacks and insomnia.

I have heard so many tales and personal stories about such great tragedy. Patients have shared everything from a Chinese immigrant who came to the United States after witnessing the murder of his entire family. He came here as an endangered slave just to get into the United States. Then, I had another young woman who was suffering after the tragedy of her two children in a house fire.

Symptoms of Stress Related Illnesses

These kinds of extreme stresses, anyone could understand how they might suffer from nightmares or panic attacks. But even regular daily stressors can lead to a lot of physical symptoms such as headaches, ulcers, chronic pain, and irritable bowl syndrome. Then often, to more serious mental illness, like panic attacks, PTSD which is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Major Depression.

What is Stress

 10 simple steps to find stress relief every dayI’d like to talk with you a little bit more about stress. I think we throw that word out a lot in our society. Even young children will come in and tell me how they’re so stressed out. But, stress is our body’s response to a demand or threat that disrupts our normal balance. Stress as it builds can affect the body, causing health problems like headaches, indigestion, and palpitations. More severe cases can lead to panic attacks, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, insomnia, and other mental health problems. If you’re experiencing significant symptoms related to stress, please seek the care of a Physician or Counselor.

This stress response is caused by a release of adrenaline and cortisol. These are stress hormones that cause a surge of energy. In a dangerous situation this allows a human being to be able to increase their pulse and breathing, and allow you to be alert and run away from whatever the threat is. But, it’s when this stress becomes chronic that the stress hormones begin to affect many body systems.  This strain can lead to serious health problems like heart disease, ulcers, hypertension, and mental health problems as we’ve already stated. It is important to practice 10 Simple Steps to Find Stress Relief Every Day.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

Common symptoms of anxiety include worrying about everything, having trouble relaxing, having difficulty concentrating, trouble falling asleep, being tired all the time, often episodes of trembling where you might break into a sweat and get light headed and have a hard time swallowing or feel like there’s something stuck in your throat, irritability, frequent urination and bowel troubles with diarrhea or loose stools.  It can even cause an exaggerated startle reflex, where you just feel like you startle and get scared easily. Practicing these 10 simple steps to find stress relief every day can be a part of relieving your anxiety symptoms.

How to Lower Stress to Improve Your Overall Health and Happiness

 10 simple steps to find stress relief every dayStress can rob you of your health and happiness. There are some simple steps that you can do to help prevent stress from causing you problems. It’s so important to seek help when stress starts to lead to these difficulties. So, it’s so important when you start to notice that you’re having increased stress, to take these 10 simple steps to find stress relief every day, to help prevent worsening of these disorders.

Again, I’m not talking about really severe or tragic events in which you’re really having difficultly immediately coping with that life event. In that situation, I strongly encourage you to get in immediately and seek help with a mental health worker and your physician. I’m talking about just overall everyday type stressors that are causing decrease in your happiness and your overall wellness. It is a great idea to learn these 10 Simple Steps to Find Stress Relief Every Day to help deal with those stressors.

10 Simple Steps to Find Stress Relief Every Day:

  1. It’s so important to spend time with family and friends. This is the first of the10 simple steps to find stress relief every day. Harvard research has shown that our most important family relationships and our personal relationships are one of the key factors that are connected to our overall happiness score.So they did this prolonged research over 75 years of a group of Harvard students, and they found that the highest predictor of happiness throughout their lifetime were those that had strong personal relationships. So it’s so important when we’re starting to notice that increased stress build up in our lives, to take time out to be with family and friends and to nurture those relationships.
  2. Exercising regularly. This is just so important. It’s one of the things that I discuss with patients on a daily basis. Exercising has shown to be as effective as low dose serotonin tablets and prescription medication in lowering people’s stress. This is simple, this is just 30 minutes of a light to moderate intensity aerobic exercise 5 days a week. I also encourage people to do yoga or other deep breathing and relaxation type exercises because I think that there are additional benefits from these practices, including meditationMeditation is a powerful relaxation tool and it can be coupled with an exercise class or time exercising, to get the full benefit of that stress reduction.
  3. Find ways to simplify life. This is very different for every person but, so often in our lives, we just pack our lives full of so many events. Our schedules, our children’s schedules, our work schedules, and even our downtime, is scheduled to every minute of the day. We get ourselves overextended and then that increases our stress, and doesn’t give us enough time to kind of reenergize and to do those things like the exercise meditation that it really takes to take good care of ourselves. This is a very important part of your 10 simple steps to find stress relief every day.
  4. Practice These 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Stress Stay PositiveSo the next thing would be to focus on accomplishments. The whole idea is to try and stay positive and to be encouraging to yourself. To focus on the things that you have done and that you have gotten to accomplish, and not so much on those things that you haven’t gotten to or those past problems that just keep reoccurring or keep coming up. So, not to focus on the past, but to stay more focused on the here and now. Not the, ‘Oh what could have been’, type of thinking. So much of our daily happiness and our wellness, depends on our attitude. Part of that is definitely focusing on accomplishments and achievements and not so much on those missed opportunities.
  5. The fifth is not to dwell on problems. Again, this is as problems come, trying to see the good in those problems, what you can learn from those problems, trying to turn that around into something more positive. The people that can do this, they call resilient or resiliency. These people can weather the storm. They can go through those difficult times, find something good in it, turn it around, and make something positive out of really awful situations. We can all learn from those people.
  6. The sixth thing is to avoid alcohol and drugs. This includes decreasing caffeine and high fat foods. I know this is one of the hardest ones for us to do, but eating well is so important. Trying to increase our fruits and vegetables, eating foods high in antioxidants, and trying to stay away from the high fat foods. This definitely can worsen our mood and cause us to be more fatigued and more tired.That’s the same thing with too much caffeine. It really does interfere with sleep and cause problems with long-term fatigue because you have that rush of energy and then the crash following. So, definitely taking all the caffeine out and limiting highly processed foods and high fat foods are really important. The alcohol issue is complicated, but definitely overuse of alcohol makes all mood symptoms worse. The last thing you want to do when you’re suffering with a lot of stress and having increased stress in your life, is to add alcohol to the mix, because it tends to make you over-exaggerate the negative, to have worsening mood symptoms, interfere with sleep, and just overall is not a healthy way to deal with conflict or problems.
  7. Practice These 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Stress every dayThe next stage is about meditation and prayer. I had already mentioned that yoga and other meditative practices can be used to lower stress. There’s a lot of research out there in regards to the affects and positive benefits of meditation and I think that it is very important to try to find some quiet time in our life when we talked about simplifying life.There’s also this whole focus on trying to find a quiet time where you can be with God in prayer or in meditation with deep breathing and relaxation to help restore and decrease our stress, but also to allow us to focus on the positive and really try to kind of reset our inner system and decrease the overall stress and impact that stress has on our lives. We talk about that in a bunch of positive psychology research, that is looking at being in the here and now, and focusing on the important things in this moment and not necessarily on the future or on the past.Being allowed to decrease your respirations and your heart rate through meditation and trying to empty your mind of thoughts; whether that be through standard meditation practices or through prayer.
  8. The next step to lowering stress is to find something to laugh about. Laughter is still one of the best medicines so using humor does lower stress and help improve people’s wellness and happiness scores.
  9. The next recommendation is to serve others. This comes in through mission work or through volunteering. We’ve always found that to help lower stress, making others happy, volunteering, and doing those sorts of activities help provide purpose in your life.This is one of my favorite of the 10 Simple Steps to Find Stress Relief Every Day. I think when faith-based people listen to God’s call and follow whatever that pursuit, whatever their ministry might be, there’s always a sense of reward and improvement in lowering in their stress.So, definitely encourage people to start service projects and to volunteer in their local community. I definitely encourage foreign mission work and mission work in our local communities. It is very rewarding and after my own experience, you just see your daily life and your stress completely different after you serve others.
  10. The last is to spend time in nature. This is just so vital. I think we reconnect with the Earth and reconnect with God when we take time out from our busy lives and watch a sunrise or visit a park or gaze at the
    stars. I know for myself, we purchased some land in the country about two years ago and have found it so valuable. Those weekends spent around the campfire, walking through the nature paths, and watching the stars. It is an amazing way that we can all use to lessen our stress and to reconnect with the creator of this wonderful world we live in, and it definitely lowers stress.

These are just 10 simple steps to find stress relief every day that all of us can take to lessen stress. I do a faith-based workshop called, ‘Rock Solid’, for women’s groups, local organizations, and for community groups, that is focused on living a Christ-centered life. It utilizes some of these steps, as well as others, to lessen stress in people’s lives and to give them a step-by-step approach of what to do when they are faced with conflict or a life crisis.

 

-Dr. Victoria Smithers, family physician, is an inspirational speaker and blogger on stress management and many wellness topics. She is booking now for medical and Christian conferences, keynotes, retreats, and workshops. Contact  her at healthandwellnessplus247@gmail.com to check availability and to get a price quote for your next meeting.