How to Heal Chronic Stress
Chronic stress is a prolonged state of stress that persists over a long period of time, often weeks, months, or even years. Various things can cause chronic stress, like work, finances, relationships, or chronic health issues.
Unlike acute stress, a normal and healthy response to immediate threats or challenges, chronic stress can harm your physical and mental health because it heightens your body’s stress response and keeps it at elevated levels over time. Chronic stress can affect your immune system, increase your risk of heart disease, cause digestive problems, and lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
It can also negatively impact your cognitive functioning, including memory and concentration, and make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.
In this post, you’ll learn how to manage and heal chronic stress through healthy coping mechanisms to live the happy, stress-free life you deserve.
Four Ways to Heal Chronic Stress
Regular exercise is an effective tool for managing chronic stress and promoting healing. Engage in enjoyable exercise that is appropriate for your fitness level, as this can help to ensure that you stick with it over the long term. Here are some ways that exercise can help:
Reducing stress hormones: Physical activity helps reduce stress hormone levels such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These hormones are released during periods of stress, and can cause a range of negative effects, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Promoting relaxation: Exercise can stimulate the release of endorphins, natural chemicals that promote relaxation and well-being. This can help counteract chronic stress’s negative effects and improve mood.
Improving sleep quality: Chronic stress can disrupt sleep, leading to fatigue and other health problems. Exercise has been shown to enhance the quality of sleep and promote deeper, more restful sleep.
Enhancing cognitive function: Chronic stress can impair cognitive function, leading to problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making. Regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
Chronic stress can erode self-confidence and self-esteem. Exercise can help boost self-confidence by providing a sense of accomplishment and mastery and promoting a positive body image.
#2: Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques help reduce physical and mental tension to promote calm and well-being. They help to counteract the negative effects of ongoing stress on the body and mind by reducing muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure, improving immune function, enhancing sleep quality, and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is important to find relaxation techniques that work for you and to practice them regularly to achieve maximum benefits.
Some of my client’s favorite relaxation techniques that I teach are:
● Breathing Colors:
Visualizations and breathing are very useful to relax and heal chronic stress. When breathing colors, we utilize both! Close your eyes and take three deep belly breaths. Close your eyes and continue taking slow, deliberate breaths, this time imagining you inhaling and exhaling your favorite color. Imagine inhaling the color, allowing it to swirl and fill your lungs and body, then exhaling it back into the world. Continue doing this and watch your stress melt away.
● The Big, Red Hot Air Balloon:
A big source of chronic stress is often the things that weigh us down in life, like responsibilities, tough relationships, and worries. Close your eyes and visualize yourself standing in a beautiful grassy field. Focus on transporting yourself to this space; feel, hear, touch, smell, and taste every element of this imaginary place. Then, notice a big, red hot air balloon in the distance. You walk up to it and begin unloading everything that weighs you down into the basket. As the basket gets heavier, you get lighter. Then, the hot air balloon drifts into the sky and goes further away, soon becoming just a speck in the distance. You know this isn’t a permanent solution, but for the moment, you appreciate the break and shift in perspective.
● Say Your Name:
Self-love is essential when looking to heal chronic stress. Often, we are stressed because of the pressure and expectation we put on ourselves, and we don’t stop to give ourselves gratitude and attention. With this technique, take a deep inhale and, on the exhale, say your name aloud. It can feel odd to say your own name aloud, but it’s an important part of the process that will help you reconnect with yourself with empathy and kindness. After getting comfortable with this, on the inhale, add “thank you” or “I love you,” and then say your name on the exhale. Repeat a few times and try this regularly to experience a reduction in your chronic stress.
Social support can be beneficial in healing chronic stress. Social support can help mitigate symptoms of chronic stress in several ways:
Social support can provide emotional comfort and validation during times of stress. Having someone to talk to and share your feelings with can help alleviate chronic stress.
Social integration: Having a social support network can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are common in people who experience chronic stress. Social integration can also provide opportunities for positive social interaction, which can help counteract chronic stress’s adverse effects on mood and well-being.
Healing from chronic stress doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you’ve been struggling with it for a while. But, if you need deeper, more personalized support to heal from your chronic stress, I can help. Reach out to learn how.