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According to the American Institute of Stress, numerous emotional and physical disorders are linked to stress. In fact, chronic stress affects each system of the body differently and can cause long-term health concerns. 

One of the greatest misconceptions about stress is that mental and emotional stress are not as detrimental as physical stress. Most people associate stress with work and a busy lifestyle, and although true, how we think and how we maintain our emotions affects the mind and the body. For many, their personal life is just as stressful as their career life, if not more so. 

In addition, people experience stress due to things like environmental toxins, overuse of technology, constant traveling, changing time zones or switching work shifts, which changes one’s biorhythm and can take several days to adjust to the new schedule. Therefore, stress is a part of the modern day life and the body will respond to the stress placed upon it. 

Stress that is stored in the body can show up in the most unexpected ways. Although associated with depression and panic attacks, stress manifests itself also through less obvious signals. These five signs indicate that something in your life is placing stress on your body. 

 1. A locked or tight jaw.

 When stressed, many people subconsciously clench their jaw or grind their teeth, which can lead to further issues such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. To release a tight jaw, first bring awareness to when you clench your jaw. Is it during rush-hour traffic? Are you going to bed with a tight jaw? Deep breathing, jaw and neck stretches, and yoga can help promote muscular relaxation. 

 2. Uncommon muscular contractions. 

Most people experience shrugged shoulders or tension in the upper-back muscles. Other unnatural muscular contractions include gripping toes, clenched fists or scrunched facial muscles. If you notice this, it is best to “check in” to alleviate subconscious holding patterns. Yoga or traditional stretches lengthen the muscles and train the body to relax.

 3. Pain without pathology. 

People experience pain in different parts of the body for various reasons. For example, someone who broke their ankle as a child may later experience, or channel, pain to that region during stressful situations. If you have pain in a certain area that has no pathology (diagnosis) or misalignment, stress could be triggering the pain. If this occurs, it is best to consult your medical practitioner who can direct you to the most appropriate therapy. 

 4. Abnormal bowel movements. 

Stress can affect digestion and the nutrient absorption process. Stress also affects how quickly food moves through the body. Constipation and diarrhea are often caused by a stressed-out digestive tract. If you haven’t eaten anything abnormal in a while and find that your elimination is not consistent, stress may be a contributing factor. Keep a log of how your mind and gut react to certain scenarios. 

 5. Holding the breath. 

When stressed, many people hold their breath or do not concentrate on a deep, elongated breath. Often the breath shortens and the chest tightens as a result of “fight or flight.” Holding the breath while stressed causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions from the heart. Deep breathing is an easy way to help overcome tension from holding the breath. Focus on matching the inhalation and exhalation with a five-second in-and-out breath.

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Here we are days before Christmas!  May you enjoy the season and be able to appreciate God's love for you!

Define your treat days. Plan your treats on the actual  holidays only—Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Day, New Year’s Eve, etc., or other noteworthy days like the office or church holiday party. This way, you have a game plan for a limited number of pre-determined days where you’ll allow yourself to enjoy some favored treats, and you’ll avoid the often random and endless parade of junk food that finds its way in front of you during the holidays

 Define your treats. Create a list of your favorite/cherished holiday treats (no more than three) and commit to only having those during the holidays. It can be a favorite pie that a family member makes during the holidays, a special dessert that you enjoy at this time of year, or the occasional seasonal treat such as a peppermint latte. Make a list of your favorites and stick to those. And remember, a treat is an occasional thing—not an everyday thing. Having a peppermint latte is dessert, not your morning coffee

 It's the holi-DAYS, not the holi-MONTHS. Starting with Halloween, it seems that we often treat all of November and December as if there are no health rules. We eat and drink whatever sugary or alcoholic beverages come out way and skip workouts because “Hey, it’s the holidays, and you’ve got to celebrate.” With this perspective, it’s actually two full months—one-sixth of our entire year—that we spend derailing health with poor choices because we have to “live a little.” It’s essentially an extended sabbatical from sensible choices, and that’s too long if we want to be healthy.

 Move with a smile. It can be harder to get full workouts in with travel schedules and visiting relatives. Shift the focus to doing what you can rather than what you are unable to do. Pick an activity (not exercise) that:

•Puts a smile on your face and in your heart and/or

•You are doing with loved ones, friends, etc.

This might sound corny, but it works. Get moving doing something you love with people you love. The positive effect on mood and mindset is almost magical. Moving while doing something fun with the important people in your life does more for you than just moving or just spending time with loved ones. The combination strengthens connections between people while enhancing the health of each individual.

5.Guarantee your workouts. Make your exercise commitment small enough so that there is no way you can’t fit it in. The busyness of the holidays often means you may not have time for your full workout, but fortunately even abbreviated workouts offer great benefits. Whatever you do has benefit so make sure you do something!

 

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