Feeling stressed? There are ways to cope

April 5 – With April being National Stress Awareness Month, it’s important to realize when you’re stressed and what you can do about it.

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

According to a survey from Forbes, two out of five adults ranked their mental health from fair to poor. Fewer stressors result in increased emotional stability, better moods and overall better health.

Sommer said, “I think sometimes people get caught up in life and especially in today’s world. Everything is go, go, go, go, go so we forget to stop and take a minute to compose ourselves. That’s why I think our stress levels are way higher than they used to be. That’s my personal opinion.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM added, “That’s really true. Boy, you look at the kids these days and all of the additional stimuli and things they have to deal with, I can’t imagine it. It seemed simpler back when, but everybody has stress. No doubt about it.”

Stress can affect just about every aspect of life.

Sommer said, “You’ll see somebody and they’re running, running, running and they get sick and it takes them out. That’s the immune system not being able to do its proper job because the studies show that being under constant stress your body doesn’t release the proteins it needs to help with healing.”

Stress can slow down the process of healing, but there are some self-help tools to combat stress.

Sommer said, “Try to avoid making it get out of control where you feel so helpless and hopeless. That’s what we don’t want.”

Listening to music can help release stress.

Sommer said, “For me a dance station is good because not only do I want to listen, I want to shake what my mama gave me and I dance all over the house. It’s a good way to release stress.”

Talking about your issues can help, too. Calling a friend or getting together with a friend just to talk can reduce stress.

Sommer said, “Call a friend, don’t text a friend. I think we’ve also become prone to not picking up the phone and actually speaking to a person. We rely on texting. If you call a person and they say they have time to talk to you, that’s the best way. Hearing a voice, listening to the tone of their voice, that calms and soothes anyone.”

Eating right also reduces stress on the body.

Sommer said, “Having a balanced diet, it maintains your blood sugar at a level where if your blood sugar drops because you skip a meal, that can make you jittery and enhance if you’re already stressed out.”

For those who like caffeine, green tea can be a good alternative to coffee.

Sommer said, “It’s very earthy. I recommend putting a little flavor in it. Matcha can help produce a calming effect. I personally have had matcha before and you don’t crash like sometimes when you have say two cups of coffee and you’ll get a burst of energy and then you’ll kind of crash. It doesn’t do that. Matcha is actually the ground up leaves that the tea is made from.”

A lot of people have found benefits to meditation, including yoga.

Sommer said, “That’s something again in our busy lifestyle, people are always too busy, you can download an app and do yoga at your home in your bedroom and it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes. It could be some 10 minutes stretching, deep breath exercise. It’s really just taking five minutes to chill and try to regroup.”

Even just a little bit of exercise can help.

Sommer said, “We’re not striving for you to be a triathlete. You don’t need to be some crazy body builder. You don’t have to do 150 squats to feel like you’ve accomplished something. Walking is a good stress reliever and you don’t even have to walk 30 minutes. You can start small. Even walk around the block. Just get up from what you’re doing, whether you’re at work and you get a break, go take a walk. It’s about re-setting your mind.”

Getting more sleep is crucial for reducing stress.

Sommer said, “Whatever can relax you is something that you need to do. Even if you shut your lights off, but you’re on your phone in bed in the dark, it’s still a light. Your brain is like oh we’re awake. We’re still processing information. The big thing is nothing that can keep your brain active because even though you put it down, it’s harder to fall asleep and you’re not as rested.”

Take a deep breath. Do it right now as you’re reading these words. Inhale slowly. Exhale slowly.

Sommer said, “Breathing is a very powerful tool to get the body to relax and clear your mind. So slow, deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth is what I always recommend. Close your eyes and do it in a quiet place. It will take your anxiety down quite a bit.”