Written by: Chelsea Myer, BS, CHES, CPT (health coach), Natasha Bidadi, PharmD, BCGP, and Sheel Patel, PharmD Candidate 2023 (Pharmacy Intern)
What do you think of when you think about "self-care"? How about "stress management"? These are two phrases that are thrown around quite a bit in the health and wellness industry. Below, read advice from our Care Coordination team to help understand the practice of both self-care and stress management, and how to incorporate them successfully into your life.
In everyday life, we typically think of self-care as an indulgence—activities you only get to do if or when you have free time. However, ivira suggests that we reframe our thinking around self-care. Self-care should be thought of as preventative health—defined as the practice of taking action to improve one's own health. Self-care behaviors include any that involve promoting your health and well-being, such as exercise and good nutrition, proper sleep hygiene, medication adherence, staying up to date on health screenings, etc.
The importance of self-care and stress management goes beyond simply feeling better in our mind. Are you aware that stress can take a profound physical toll on the body? Recent research completed by a neuropsychologist, Dr. Jen Wolkin, has demonstrated a direct relationship between mental health and the impact it has on the stomach and digestion. Stress can cause changes in the structural and physiological functions of the stomach. It can also cause inflammation, pain, and gastrointestinal discomfort which can substantially impact quality of life. As a result, effective stress reduction can have a profound effect on not only mental health, but also physical wellbeing.
Where can we start on the path to controlling stress? We can think of stress management as having two main categories: stress prevention and stress reduction. Management of stress involves more than just breathing exercises and meditation— while those activities are great for helping to reduce stress levels temporarily, how can we actively prevent stress in our lives? Let us first dive a little deeper into stress prevention. Some ways to prevent stress include mindfulness, effective communication skills, and budgeting (and not just financial budgets).
Mindfulness is the act of focusing your awareness on the present moment, including the acknowledgement of current feelings, thoughts, sensations, etc. Being mindful can help prevent stress by being in the present moment, without worrying about the thoughts, emotions, or events of the past or future.
Mastering clear communication skills can help us to verbalize our needs more effectively, so we can clearly ask for help or delegate tasks when necessary. Begin by asking yourself a few important questions: Are you able to clearly determine when you need assistance? Can you decipher between different feelings and emotions? Do you have people to reach out to when you are feeling burned out? All of these skills can help to alleviate and prevent stress.
We typically think of the term "budget" in the context of our finances. However, there are many aspects of our lives that can be budgeted to help us prevent future stressors.
Now, let’s discuss stress reduction.
There are many effective ways to reduce stress. While it is most beneficial to prevent stress before it occurs, sometimes that is not a possibility. It is important to learn ways to reduce stress, when it is not preventable, to avoid some of the adverse effects that high stress levels can have on our bodies.
Engaging in physical activity is an excellent way to reduce stress in the body. Exercise can help to reduce stress and improve mood by boosting endorphins, which are the “feel-good” hormones released in our brains. Engaging in physical activity for about 30 minutes per day can significantly improve stress levels. Yoga is an excellent form of physical activity and stress relief, as it incorporates mindfulness and meditation, as well.(2)
Deep Breathing & Meditation
Deep breathing techniques help calm the nervous system after stress by activating our parasympathetic nervous system to trigger the relaxation response. This helps to physically reduce the stress in our bodies and minds.(3)
Meditating on a consistent basis, even for short periods, may help boost your mood and decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety. You can try guided meditations on YouTube or Spotify, or even by downloading a meditation app on your phone (Calm, Headspace). Try just sitting in stillness for 5 minutes to take time to be mindful after a stressful day.
While our phones and devices are a necessary part of our lives, it can be beneficial to have screen-free time, especially if you are feeling stressed. Not only do we mindlessly scroll social media and often engage in negative thought processes, but blue light radiating from screens can also affect our sleep hygiene. Poor, restless sleep can increase stress levels throughout the day, and increase the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body.
Another way to think about stress reduction, and prevention, is in the form of self-care activities. Here are some examples:
Sometimes it can be stressful to keep track of your medications. Taking your medications regularly as directed by your provider is critical to controlling your medical conditions.
Some helpful tips to remember to take your medications regularly:
Ivira Pharmacy has many great programs to help make an impact on your medication adherence. We provide a free pill pack service which offers all your medications sorted into daily packs to help keep you on track. If you are having trouble getting to the pharmacy, we have free delivery service right to your door. We can also link all your medications to one monthly fill via MedSync, which can help you stay on track and saves you from making multiple trips to the pharmacy. Contact our retail pharmacy if you have any questions at (302) 660-8847.
We have created a self-care bingo to inspire you to take control of your mental and physical health. If you would like to speak to a health coach to discuss how you can incorporate self-care and stress management into your life, book a free 15-minute consultation! Contact our wellness team at (302) 958-9665.
Get started with a few steps!
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