Stress is a powerful thing. We all experience stress; whether it is eustress (i.e., good stress) such as getting married or expecting a baby or distress (i.e., bad stress) such as a death in the family or getting fired. Stress is a part of daily life, but how we handle/manage stress may be more important. Stress is often referred to as the silent killer. Improper ways of handling stress can not only affect relationships but also one’s health. When an individual experiences stress, fight or flight hormones and chemicals flood the bloodstream and the body has a difficult process of getting rid of these things. By ignoring stress and leaving the body to breakdown and discard these substances regularly, a person’s can organs and health overall can be harmed. Additionally, we may displace stress on those nearby e.g., loved ones. Stress from an annoying bumper to bumper drive home from work can easily turn into an argument with a loved one or more destructive habits (e.g., binging on junk food or worse unhealthy behaviors).
Parents may experience increased levels of stress, and stress may be more impacting/greater for parents of children with disabilities (Jaffe & Cosper, 2014). Therefore, practicing good ways of dealing with stress is imperative.
Not only is exercise good for the body, but it also allows the brain to declutter. A simple 15 minute daily cardiovascular routine will help the body burn up those complex stress chemicals and hormones. Often, the hardest part of exercise is finding a way to fit into your daily routine. If going to the gym isn’t possible, a simple step or curb can be your fancy new aerobic system. It is simple: step up with one foot then step up with the other foot onto a step or curb and then reverse the process, step down with one foot then the other foot. Keep this process going for a total of 15 minutes at a count of a step per half second to a second a step. If that is too challenging, you can also split the total time into three five minute intervals. A goal would be to eventually increase your aerobic workout to 30 minutes per day five days a week (i.e., the recommended amount of cardio exercise by the American Heart Association).
Meditation allows your brain the chance to take a break and direct your thoughts elsewhere. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is supported by research to decrease stress and improve restful sleep by allowing yourself to be in/enjoy the moment. Guided mindfulness meditation videos can be found on youtube with varying lengths in time, as well as applications for your cell phone. Destressify is good app that has free segments and additional features that can be purchased if desired. Personally, I like to practice meditation before going to sleep and after getting out of bed in the morning. Starting and ending the day in a relaxed state can do wonders for stress levels.
Taking the time to sit outside for five to 10 minutes a day is a great way to breathe a little easier. Ask any former smoker, one thing often missed most is the ability to go outside to take a “break” from life. Not only are you providing your body with a natural and pure source of vitamin D, but you are also giving yourself a chance to take time out to enjoy real life minus technology and things associated with daily stresses. A way to kill two birds with one stone would be to use the curb outside of Children’s Therapy Works for your 15 minute step exercise session, while your child is working with his/her therapist(s).
Jaffe, L. & Cosper, S. (2014) Working with Families. In Case-Smith, J., & O’brien, J. C. (Eds.) Occupational Therapy for Children and Adolescents (pp. 129-162). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier
American Heart Association Recommendation for Physical Activity in Adults. (2016, July 27). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp#.WcU-R0uGPre