By: Kerry Gustafson, LAT, ATC, LMT — Superfeet Wellness Panel Member. Kerry Gustafson is the owner and visionary of Prime Sports Institute, a multi-disciplinary sports medicine clinic focused on helping individuals maintain healthy, active lifestyles through a comprehensive approach to wellness. An athletic trainer for more than 19 years, Kerry's specialties include the evaluation and rehab of injuries, running gait analysis and screenings to identify imbalances, mobility and movement dysfunctions
Stress can become detrimental when you don’t take enough time to rest and recover. Sure, you need a little stress in your life to be productive and achieve your goals. However, the impact of constant stress can build up to negative consequences over time.
Your body responds to stress by initiating your ‘fight or flight’ response of the autonomic nervous system - whether there’s an immediate threat or you’re experiencing worry, fear or anxiety about something that’s in the future.
Here are five ways to reduce stress and turn on your ‘rest and digest’ response for total body wellness:
A healthy exercise program can do a lot for your body and your mind. Exercise can help you build strength and stamina to tackle life’s most difficult challenges.
Too much exercise without proper rest and recovery can also create stress. Follow your doctor’s guidelines and tap into the expertise of a coach or certified athletic trainer who can help you progress in the most safe and healthy way.
Massage (or self massage)
If you’ve had a massage before you may intuitively understand the benefits of how this modality can reduce stress.
Superficially, massage helps increase tissue elasticity and mobility and decrease muscle tension. Physiologically massage increases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine while decreasing your cortisol levels. Grab your foam roller or ask your massage therapist to teach you techniques for working on your lower legs and feet, or upper back, neck and shoulders. I do this all the time with my clients either in office or via telemedicine appointments.
The Great Outdoors
Your brain benefits from going outside. No matter where you live, spending time in nature can reduce the negative effects of stress.
Try getting in some time outside each day whether that’s a walk in your neighborhood park, a rip through the trails on your bike, or just taking your cup of coffee outside in the morning. You can even boost your mood and change your outlook by viewing images of the outdoors.
Laughter and smiling
The saying, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ is loaded with wisdom. Finding the humor can decrease your stress hormones, trigger endorphins and increase your immune system.
Don’t have anything to laugh about? No problem, grab a pencil. German researchers found that holding a pencil between your teeth produced an inauthentic–but still functionally effective–smile. Smiling is so effective because it may reduce the body’s stress response when you’re in a brief period of stress, regardless of whether you’re happy or not.
Staying hydrated as well as being in or on the water helps reduce stress.
Making sure that you’re drinking enough water each day and staying hydrated is one of the most do-able habits that can help you reduce the stress levels on your body and brain. Hydration comes from more than just water. Eating juicy fruits and vegetables are great ways to increase your hydration while getting important vitamins and minerals as well. Be prepared for the week by prepping the top 10 hydrating foods so you can grab and go: cucumbers, watermelon, pineapple, lettuce, tomatoes, blueberries, celery, cantaloupe, grapefruit and pears.
Other ways to reduce stress with water include taking a hot bath or shower. You can also try activities like swimming, surfing or paddling.