Feeling overwhelmed, frantic or rushed? Can’t seem to get a break? Working on that to-do list, only to see it growing faster than you can manage?
We all experience stress, so at ATI Physical Therapy, we know how to manage it both from personal experience and from our team members’ individual areas of expertise.
For ways to help eliminate stress so you can be your best at home and at work, we caught up with Shelly Najjar and the ATI team from the Newcastle, Washington clinic.
Physical activity has been shown to help the body release endorphins, which can produce a positive feeling. It also helps reduce anxiety and stress.
Find movement activities (doesn’t have to be exercise) that you enjoy, so you can have fun while you feel better as you do them. For example, rehab technician Anna Roslander enjoys running, and physical therapist James McMahon, DPT, PT practices yoga.
Massage therapist Evelyn Lafferty, LMT, tells patients to try wall angels — moving your arms as if making snow angels, while standing against a wall. This stretches the shoulders, neck and upper back, where many patients carry their stress.
“Let go of the idea of perfect,” suggests dietitian Shelly Najjar, MPH, RDN, “both in what you eat and how you prepare it. You don’t need to make everything from scratch to be healthy.”
Find ways to make semi-homemade meals, saving time with pre-cut produce or frozen veggies, and always having ingredients for your go-to meals. When you cook, you can also prepare food in larger batches so you can take it to work, or create your own freezer meals for upcoming weeks.
Hydrate and Heat
“I tell my patients to increase their water intake to stay hydrated, which makes it easier for the muscle tissue to clear out any bad hormones released under stress,” says Lafferty.
She also recommends applying heat, which “helps with relaxation and increasing blood supply to the muscles,” clearing out the hormones and loosening tight muscles.
Create a Meal Plan
“Meal planning relaxes me,” says McMahon.
Planning, in general, creates a sense of order and decreases the stress of the unknown, and meal planning can be helpful for this too.
“Meal plans decrease the stress and time around deciding what to eat when you’re already hungry,” says Najjar. “They give you clear action steps and make it possible to bulk prep and shop, which saves time in your busy schedule.”
Make Time to Be Present
Carefully protecting time for personal relaxation is challenging on good days, let alone on stressful ones.
Making time to be still and present in what’s happening now versus ruminating over the past or worrying about the future can be beneficial to preventing or managing the stress we experience. For physical therapist Abby McCormack, DPT, a go-to stress reliever is to relax with a good book and her dog.
Consider Nourishment as Self-Care
It can be easy to skip meals or make food choices we wouldn’t otherwise make when we’re stressed. Unfortunately, that can lead to unstable blood sugar, excessive hunger (that can lead to overeating later) or food choices that don’t help us achieve our health goals.
Najjar suggests eating regularly timed meals or snacks and having a “nourishment list.” Choose several meal or snack ideas that you like, things that don’t take much effort and that you always have on hand. Aim for a balance of carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat, remembering to add vegetables. Then you can use this list to quickly choose something to eat.
“It’s kind of like a self-care list for your eating,” she says.
Use Technology the Right Way
Technology can be a stressor with its constant notifications and immediate access to time-consuming distractions. It can also be a helpful tool, as McMahon points out.
“The Headspace app is broad enough to apply to anyone, helps you find your center, find a healthy breathing pattern and get clarity with key points and a goal of the day,” he says.
Find Your Support
“Remember the good things and supportive people in your life,” says physical therapist Wendy Samuels, PT, “should you need someone to talk to, it’s helpful” to have your support network.
Support can also be in the form of health professionals like ATI clinicians who can help you come up with non-stressful options that work for you and your health goals.
Are aches and pains stressing you out and getting in the way of your daily activities?
If simple home interventions are not helping to lessen aches, pains and discomfort, it’s time to see a physical therapist. Stop by your nearest ATI Physical Therapy clinic for a complimentary screening and get back to doing you.