Stress Management

By: Patricia Hudak, RN and Chelsea Cassidy, LCSW

Stress Management

Most individuals can relate to the feelings of stress even if they are not able to relate to the specific circumstance you may be experiencing.  There are different responses to feelings of stress, depending on your own coping techniques and how you address the stressor in your own life.  Stress depends on the duration of the stressor, intensity of the stressor and capacity of the individual to withstand the stress.

What is Stress?

Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes several reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.

The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimized. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.  The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido.

FIGHT: When your body goes into a state of stress, we may feel agitated and aggressive towards others; this can be due to our bodies’ natural reaction being “fight”. This can be a helpful reaction to ward off predators, but in unnecessary situations, it can negatively affect relationships and ruin reputations.

FLIGHT: Some of us avoid our stressors, removing ourselves from the situation instead of tackling it. This can be a sign of the “flight” survival instinct; a function that can save our lives if we find ourselves in dangerous surroundings. However, in everyday life, this instinct can lead to a stressful situation escalating and increase our stress levels when we realize that the stressor is not going away and we need to face it.

FREEZE: Unknown by many, there is a third mode that stress can cause; freeze. For some people, becoming stressed sets the stage for ‘dysregulation’.  The energy mobilized by the perceived threat gets “locked” into the nervous system and we ‘freeze’. This response sometimes reveals itself when we breathe. Holding our breath and shallow breathing are both forms of freeze. The occasional deep sigh is the nervous system catching up on its oxygen intake.

Mindfulness is a great practice to implement when under stress.  Mindfulness is about being present with what is happening without judgement.  Often our stress will raise when we allow our thoughts to take us to the past and re-experience the event over and over (ruminate) or place our thoughts in the future.  We create a larger space mentally for the stress by giving energy to the past and future.  The purpose of mindfulness is to stay in the present with your feelings and emotions.  We then can react from a place of intelligence and kindness. (NPR)

RAIN is an acronym that can remind you how to practice mindfulness:

Recognize

Sense the feeling that you are having in the moment

Allow

Pause. Give space for the feelings.  It is okay to not be okay.

Investigate

Take a screening of your body internally and externally.  Can you identify places of pain or discomfort? What has your attention? What are you believing right now?  What thought patterns can you track? What do you need in this moment?

Nuture

Be kind to yourself.  Give grace to yourself.  Place a hand on your heart and make a positive affirmation statement.

The goal of RAIN is to practice mindfulness by being present with yourself which can create a shift in the way you feel.

 

Breathing technique: 4-7-8

Breathing techniques are great to have in your stress management tool kit.  They can be done any place without others even noticing.  This provides quick interventions during high moments of stress.  The 4-7-8 breathing technique is designed to reduce anxiety, help people fall asleep, manage cravings, and reduce anger (Medical News Today).

To start, get yourself into a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.

  • Empty your lungs of air (exhale)
  • Breathe quietly through your nose for four seconds
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven seconds
  • Exhale with force through your mouth, pursing your lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for eight seconds
  • Repeat breathing exercise up to four times

As with anything, including mindfulness and breathing techniques, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.  One will also see the positive effects of mindfulness and breathing techniques over time.  A good starting point is to practice these techniques twice a day – morning, and evening.  Giving your first thoughts and last thoughts to yourself.  Emily Ley has recently stated in her podcast “be where your feet are”.  Take the challenge to be fully present in body, mind, and spirit where your feet are and watch the stress dissolve.

National Nutrition Month

Personalize Your Plate with National Nutrition Month® 2021

This year’s theme of “Personalize Your Plate” emphasizes the importance of understanding there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to nutrition and health. We are all unique and our approach to healthy living should be, too!

Creating healthy eating habits can be a daunting task, with an overwhelming amount of information thrown at us, the latest eating trends, and buzz-worthy ingredients. However, good nutrition really is all about having a well-rounded diet.

Nutrition Made Simple

Keeping in mind that we all have different nutrition goals which require different approaches, the CDC website provides the following four general tips for working towards a well-rounded diet:

  1. Add healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, olives
  2. Reduce overall sodium intake – start by reading ingredient labels and recipes to find alternatives to sodium
  3. Increase fiber for digestion
  4. Aim for a variety of colors on your plate during every meal

Test Your Culinary Skills!

National Nutrition Month® is the perfect time to learn new and healthy recipes! With the internet at our fingertips, there are endless resources available to you. Most recipes include the nutrition information at the bottom that will help you to determine if the recipe meets your nutritional needs.

For those of us who just don’t know where to begin, there are meal kit services like ‘Hello Fresh’ and ‘Blue Apron’ that delivers recipes and the necessary ingredients to your home based on your nutritional preferences at a frequency of your choosing. These services can be a great starting point and helpful resource in a busy world where we don’t always have the time to dedicate to planning our meals.

If you are still lost on who to turn to for help, Registered Dietician Nutritionists can assist with developing a customized plan tailored to our unique bodies and nutritional needs.

So let’s use National Nutrition Month® as motivation to put our healthiest foot forward and strive for a well-rounded diet. And remember to Personalize Your Plate!

September is Healthy Aging Month

During Healthy Aging Month, we focus on celebrating the many positive aspects of aging. Here are some tips to incorporate in your daily routine that can lead to a healthier lifestyle, allowing you to live your life to the fullest.

  1. Exercise – Get moving and active on a daily basis!
  2. Socialize – Stay in touch and find safe ways to connect with friends and loved ones!
  3. Stay balanced – Try new methods such as yoga to reduce stress and improve your overall balance!
  4. Rest – It’s important to make sure you are getting a good, quality rest each night.

These are important tips to keep in mind for all ages and stages of life. Not only this month, but from now on, remember to take care of yourself and those who surround you. Healthy aging starts with you and your health decisions.

Happy Nurses Day!

Today, we recognize our nurses for their hard work, support, and compassion. Because of you, we live in a happier, healthier world. Happy Nurses Day!

Your hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed. Now, more than ever, we appreciate you!

Our “Why” During COVID-19

Times of uncertainty often bring about reflection on our individual mission and purpose – our “why” in life.  We all have a different “why” that has been formed through our passions and life experiences.  Maybe your mission and purpose in life is teaching and mentoring the youth in your community, or maybe it is working in law enforcement to keep your community safe.  Across the company, we are fortunate to have some of the healthcare industry’s most talented professionals whose “why” also aligns with our mission to provide first-class care to our patients and their families.

While we all adjust to changes in our daily lives, our employees are continuing to fulfill their commitment to our patients.  From conducting music therapy in outdoor nursing home courtyards to providing meals for hospital staff and first responders, the current pandemic has even given us the opportunity to be creative in carrying out our mission.

As stated by Rosie Avila, Community Liaison at our Nurses in Touch location, “our purpose here is not for ourselves; it’s for others and in turn their purpose was for us.”  This rings true throughout the company, and our employees are living out their mission and purpose every day.

What is your mission and purpose – your “why” in life?  Perhaps it will be uncovered during these times.  Perhaps it will align with ours.  Perhaps it will provide an opportunity for us to partner in carrying out our missions to support our communities.  We are all in this together!