Physical Health tied to Mental Wellness: 5 Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Day-to-Day Life

I recently experienced what so many of my clients come into session concerned about…physical aches and pains.

I woke up one morning with an aching pain in my jaw. It was like having a migraine in my mouth all day long. I tried to think back over the last few days…what had I been doing differently that could have caused this? After some self reflection and figuring out what the pain exactly was, I realized stress was the culprit. I had gotten to a place of extreme stress from working two jobs, being a mom, and managing all the calendars my household had to keep track of. I had begun clenching my teeth while I slept, which caused me to wake up in pain.

The solution to this pain? Physical therapy, mouth guards at night, and pain medication. Um…I don’t know about you, but none of that sounded like a solution or appealing in any way. They sounded more like management, than a cure.

So many of my clients come into session expressing symptoms of depression or anxiety or general stress, then will make a passing comment about chronic back pain, or chest tightness, or other physical ailments that they have been getting evaluated at a physician. They never tie the experience of physical health to their mental health however.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, and you should always seek out medical professionals to have any physical health symptoms evaluated. This is in no way a replacement for medical assistance/ advice.

Minority women especially, are more likely to experience mental health concerns as physical symptoms in the body. These aches and pains are almost always directly related to your level of stress. In my personal experience, consciously working on reducing my stress enabled me to reduce my jaw pain to zero.

Now this does not mean medical intervention isn’t helpful, but it can work hand in hand with mental health interventions. Utilizing various coping strategies to reduce stress can assist in a speedy recovery.

Here are my top 5 coping strategies for managing stress:

  • 1. Mindfulness Breathing

  • Mindfulness breathing is a tool that can be utilized at any moment in your day and requires nothing more than the ability to breathe. Pausing in a moment of stress to take a deep inhale and slow exhale allows for your body to experience a sense of calm. It slows down your heart rate and reduces the idea that your body needs to go into “fight or flight” mode. If you want some assistance in practicing this technique try searching for “Guided Mindfulness Breathing” on YouTube, or download the “Calm” app on your mobile device.
  • 2. Journaling

    Journaling can be a great way to get thoughts out of your head and practice letting go of stress. Writing about your emotions whether it be grief, anger, joy, or a plethora of other emotions allows you to release these thoughts and reflect on how they are affecting you. An important aspect of journaling however is practicing to write about gratitude. Expressing gratitude for various aspects of your life provides balance to the challenges and emotions that occur on a daily basis. Nobody wants a book of sorrow, so incorporate both the good and bad.

    3. Skincare Routine

    This may seem frivalous, but hear me out. A regular skincare routine not only benefits your skin, but it gives you time to yourself. Depending on the type of skincare routine you implement (it could be as simple as rubbing some lotion on or as complex as a multi-step regimen) you can give yourself 2-30 minutes of “me time”. Being intentional about this time each day guarantees that you take a break and attend to your own needs even if only for a few minutes.

    4. Low-Impact Exercises

    Depending on your physical symptoms and with approval from your physician, try low- impact exercises such as walking or yoga. Walking is such an underrated exercise regimen. Taking time on your lunch break or before/after work to take a walk outside allows for more time in the sun, increased blood flow, and an overall mood boost. This physical activity kills two birds with one stone as it benefits your physical and mental health at the same time.

    5. Sleep Hygiene

    Last, but certainly not least, ensure you are getting enough sleep. How you feel when you wake up determines how well you’ll manage your stress throughout your day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Take a look at your daily schedule. Where is time wasted? And what could be moved around to create room for a decent bedtime? Also, take a look into what you are sleeping on. Maybe that futon from college isn’t cutting it anymore, or your mattress could use a new topper for support. Nobody has ever applauded themselves for having a late night and waking up groggy in the morning. Elevate this basic need to ensure a brighter day ahead.

    All these coping strategies can be used on a day-to-day basis to reduce the stress that is likely contributing to those physical ailments. Incorporating and practicing these stress-reducing skills will allow you to live a happier and healthier life. And if these things aren’t enough, try attending therapy!

    Suite303 Podcast: Episode 6: Mental Health & The Stigma of Therapy feat. Lee from SimpLee Therapy

    I had the pleasure recently to collaborate with not just someone I look up to, but one of the people that inspire me daily, Mr. Albert Phang, also known as my big brother. His podcast, Live from Suite303, is THE place for entertainment, culture, and generally uplifting the community known as The Inland Empire. I was privileged enough to get to sit down on the show and discuss how mental health has become such a big conversation in every community, but also how the stigma around therapy is being shattered by new generations in the black community.

    Take a listen at Suite303 on SoundCloud or

    Watch the podcast on YouTube at

    Live from Suite 303 – Episode 6

    Your Baby just did Something Amazing, and You Didn’t Even Notice.

    Being a new mom is hard and with the world constantly telling you what we should and shouldn’t [do, watch for, feed, say, practice, look for]  with your new bundle of joy it only makes it harder. I spent so much time the first few months of my darling daughter’s life Googling every little thing she did and completely freaking out about my ability to mother her (and 95% of the things I was over-exaggerating about were completely normal “baby stuff”) .

    I constantly had my phone in my hand. Every minute I spent on my phone was a minute I lost connection with my little girl. I really noticed the impact this was having on her when I noticed her interaction with her dad.
    cell laptop

    My partner would give undivided attention to her whenever he was home, and she just seemed…happier. They would engage fully and she had no complaints. Now this may seem obvious, “Duh. Of course a baby is going to want attention. And of course you shouldn’t be on your phone.” But it isn’t as obvious as you may think.

    Becoming a mother means changing your entire lifestyle. No longer are you able to stay constantly connected to friends and family the way you once were. I use to spend days calling, texting, Snapchatting, Instagramming, (etc., etc.) with my friends and loved ones. I no longer had time to just meet up for drinks or chat on the phone for 2 hours. My friends started feeling neglected and I started feeling alone.

    Being at home alone for weeks with a newborn was not as entertaining as I thought it would be. Once the baby came home I had to be on “Mommy Duty” 24/7. I would be thirsting for attention when my partner came home from work. And was ecstatic that I had someone to talk to and interact with on an adult level. (My poor fiancee.) When he wasn’t there, being on my phone was the only way to interact.

    So, what’s the solution?  You shouldn’t ignore your child, but you also shouldn’t ignore your own needs. Well, being intentional is the key. I became very intentional about how I wanted to socialize.

    In the mornings before the little one awoke, I would make calls to my best friend on the East Coast. It was a little early for me (definitely not a morning person), but it worked for her schedule and allowed for me to get my day started with the thing I was craving most, social interaction. During nap times I put the phone on speaker and talked to my mom while I washed up dishes or folded laundry. Once little one was old enough for visitors, I invited over a friend or two to spend some time at the house with me in the evening (sometimes we even snuck in a glass of wine or two if the little one had nodded off to sleep).

    These “strategies” if you will, allowed me to put down the phone and interact with my darling when she was awake and still satisfy my craving for adult conversation. I no longer felt lonely and I no longer had to follow my poor fiancee around the house like a puppy dog in need of some lovin’.

    Being intentional about your needs allows you to take care of yourself and those around you without getting burned out. Some good old fashioned self-care is always the answer.

     

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