At Midwest Neurology Associates, the disorders, diseases and injuries we care for definitely run the gamete from severe to mild. When patients come to us with problems like anxiety, trouble focusing, stress, lack of sleep or inability to fall asleep, nervous tremors, panic attacks and other social issues, we always try to start at the source of the problem—the stress itself.
Let’s clear this up—stress is more than just some mental discomfort. Stress is typically caused by Cortisol, a neurotransmitter released from the brain as a stress response to negative stimulus. Think about all of the different negative stressors that occur in everyday life, and it’s easy to see why controlling Cortisol levels is such an issue these days. Having high stress levels and high Cortisol levels results in some serious side effects.
High Cortisol levels can be correlated with a myriad of health disorders. One of the first and foremost symptoms of high Cortisol levels is sleep loss and deprivation. Not only does this cause more stress, which results in more cortisol being produced, it also involves all of the different health problems and risks that go along with not sleeping enough – vulnerability to mood swings, anxiety and even migraine headaches. Some suffering from high Cortisol levels can develop a disorder known as Cushing’s Syndrome. This syndrome can cause loss of sex drive, extreme fatigue, high blood pressure and blood sugar, irritability, anxiety, depression and many other problems that will only cause more stress. So, what do you do?
Stress management and mindfulness are two things that people can do every day to keep their minds and bodies healthy. While the mind and the nervous system are sometimes beyond stress management practices and require individuals to seek professional diagnosis and treatment, many techniques can be executed from the comfort of your own home. Here are some ways you can help manage your stress and keep down your Cortisol levels naturally—try practicing them and see the changes in your life.
Meditation – Meditation is one of the most overlooked methods of stress relief and release. Meditation can be as easy as sitting down, closing your eyes, counting to 100 and going over the things you have to be grateful for. Meditation can also be more involved and include reading books on Zen and/or Buddhist meditation practices. Either way, it’s a great way to manage stress, and each individual can practice in a way that suits their needs and time constraints.
Anger Management – There are many different ways to manage anger and frustration. The more you manage it and release it, the less time it has to fester in your system and build up Cortisol levels. Do some rigorous exercise or yardwork. If you’re into training, hit a punching bag and get your blood flowing. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of release. You can also try taking a swim if you have access to water—it loosens the muscles and promotes healthy breathing. Breathe control and anger management should go hand-in-hand. We know that anger management can be a big hurdle to overcome, and we are here to help if you need us.
Sleep Schedule – This is another widely overlooked method of stress management. Getting on a proper sleep cycle, and getting into a habit of getting sleep when you need it, is a great way to manage stress and improve health. There’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep—coffee just masks the damage with caffeine and sugar. Practice a good sleep schedule and it’ll help.
Time Management – Ever find yourself stressing about being on time, or forgetting about an appointment? Time management is important in this day and age of online and digital scheduling, strict appointments and expectations of punctuality. Having a schedule will keep you and others from overbooking your time. At the same time, it decreases stress to know exactly what to expect throughout a day. Being prepared is a great way to avoid stress.
Positive Thinking – Positive thinking is typically overlooked, but is a great way to promote mental health and assists with stress management. There is actually a quantifiable difference between waking up and saying “I’m ready for today,” and waking up and saying “I’m not ready for today.” Having a strong, positive mindset will instill positive thoughts into your head throughout the day, which helps control stress and thus decreases Cortisol levels.
Proper Nutrition — Eating a balanced diet definitely helps with mental health. Constantly eating fast foods and other junk food with no nutritional value will take its toll on the human body over time. It’s important to eat a balanced diet full of vegetables and nutrient-rich foods to ensure that the body is getting all of the nutrition, vitamins and minerals needed to function healthily.
Counseling/Self-Counseling – When all else fails, talk to someone. It could be a friend, family member, significant other or medical professional. It never hurts to talk to someone and just “get things off your chest.” If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a professional, keep a journal—at the end of the day, jot down your thoughts and how you feel about the day. If you don’t want to save it, burn it—nobody has to see it but you. However, it’s extremely therapeutic to get these thoughts out of your head and onto some paper, or into a conversation.
These are just some rough examples of how to manage stress. Each person does this in their own way. Everyone has their own habits of going to the gym and exercising, and has people that they go to in their times of need. However, sometimes seeing a medical professional is unavoidable Rest assured that professionals only want to help restore your life to a comfortable standard. Contact us today at (219) 836-2096 for more information on how we can help you manage your stress.