How to Reduce Tension and Stress for Improved Health

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD

Man sitting in a chair looking unworried as he has learned how to reduce tensionLiving in today’s world is not easy. You are likely faced with the emotional pressure to succeed, the toxic effects of environmental pollution, and a chronic lack of proper rest. All of these factors are stressful for your body. It’s almost impossible to avoid stress altogether, but knowing how to reduce tension is imperative for your health. Failing to deal with tension and stress can wreak havoc on multiple systems of your body. Managing stress and tension in your life is especially important for those recovering from Adrenal Fatigue. Try out these 11 techniques to keep a positive outlook and reduce stress on your body, mind, and adrenals.

1. Embrace Yourself

You may find it hard to accept yourself and your unique qualities, but it’s important to understand and embrace both your strengths and limitations. Don’t spend time or energy comparing yourself to others or trying to compete with them. This will create a never-ending cycle that leads to constant pressure and stress. Your body responds to this stress with your neuroendocrine system: your brain receives signals to create neurotransmitters and hormones that have significant effects on how your body functions. So if you can avoid this mental stress, you can actually set yourself up to be healthier.

2. Acknowledge Your Self-Worth

The stress hormones created by your body are automatically sent to your organs to elicit a fight-or-flight response—even if you aren’t in a situation that requires it. Outside of your brain, the adrenal glands serve as the main responders to stress. When these glands are made to process excessive stress, the health consequences can be severe. Ignoring your own value keeps you in a continued state of stress that prevents your body from functioning at its full capacity. So stop indulging in self-deprecating thoughts. While your body and energy may be limited, this does not mean your worth is limited. Your body responds favorably when you appreciate the person you are, a key step in how to reduce tension.

3. Don’t Dwell On Judgment from Others

The most important hormone for controlling stress is cortisol. If you experience excessive stress, your cortisol levels will fluctuate as your body struggles to keep up. Without proper levels of this hormone, your body will not handle stress appropriately. In addition to the stress you feel from criticizing yourself, you probably also stress yourself out by dwelling on the judgments of other people. Try your best to ignore such judgments, and realize that they stem from others’ insecurities about their own value.

4. Forgive Sincerely

If you feel plagued by the criticism of others, it’s important to forgive. Don’t do it for your reputation, but do it for your personal health and peace of mind. If you pretend to forgive for shallow reasons, you can never truly heal. Remaining stressed will put too much of a burden on your adrenal glands, and their output will become abnormal over time. Once stress becomes a normal habit for you, your cortisol output peaks and ultimately drops because your adrenal glands can’t keep up with the demand. This condition is known as Adrenal Fatigue.

5. Learn How to Reduce Tension in Conflict

A couple fighting that need help figuring out how to reduce tensionWhen dealing with Adrenal Fatigue, your body is kept in a persistent state of fatigue, with no obvious pathological cause. Conventional medical results will mostly appear to be normal, but you still suffer from serious effects. Adrenal Fatigue is often accompanied by depression, panic attacks, insomnia, chemical sensitivity, and other conditions.

If you never forgive, you only make things worse for your own life and health. Deteriorating health also makes you more stressed, and this continues the cycle. Instead of focusing on other people, take responsibility for yourself, take control, calm down, and forgive.

6. Make Kindness the Center of Everything

When learning to look at yourself and forgive, you’ll eventually grow and learn to go a step further. In everything you do, intend to be kind. The reactions you get from others will make you lighter and happier, and you’ll notice changes in your body. The body’s stress response also affects your metabolism, and this controls your inflammatory responses, the health of your body’s cells and your ability to detoxify. Being kind is akin to cleansing yourself both spiritually and physically.

7. Focus on Things that can be Changed

There are significant emotional consequences of constant worry—whether about your past, present, or future. These emotional effects lead to physical effects that slow your ability to recover from further emotional or physical trauma. The cycle can become so severe that you suffer in your daily life. It can even impede your ability to perform your job, keep up your household, or maintain relationships.

Of course, this also worsens the cycle as you become more stressed about the declining circumstances of your daily life. The solution is to focus on aspects of life that you know you can change. The past is done. And in terms of the future, you should plan for it, but don’t obsess over it.

8. Concentrate on the Positives of the Present

Your metabolic and neuroendocrine systems are interconnected. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress system involves hormonal and neuroaffective responses that are connected to bodily processes such as inflammation, detoxification, and metabolism.
When you are too stressed, your NEM stress response—including your neuroaffective responses—become dysregulated, resulting in an overall imbalance of your body’s stress response systems. To avoid this debilitating cycle, try to focus on the positives of your present. It may be impossible to ignore the negative aspects completely, but try to accept them and focus instead on the positives.

9. Savor the Good

If your body’s hormonal system does not operate properly, you suffer from low adrenal function that causes low thyroid function. If you’ve noticed issues such as fatigue, low libido, exercise intolerance, infertility, hair loss, dry skin, PMS, or menstrual irregularity, it could be the result of adrenal issues. If your metabolic system is disrupted by stress, this can lead to serious issues such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and hypoglycemia.

Such serious conditions that are caused or exacerbated by stress serve as proof of the importance of not just noticing, but dwelling on life’s positives in every moment. Make the most of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Savor the good moments, and you’ll find it much easier to overlook the unfortunate moments.

10. Be Grateful for ALL Experiences

Even while focusing on positive moments, you can still be grateful for circumstances you consider negative. They serve as learning experiences and allow you to train and condition your mind and body to adjust and adapt your responses to stressful stimuli. An unhealthy view of “negative” experiences can lead to insomnia, depression, mood swings, and anxiety; it may even affect your sleep and cognition.

11. Take a Step Back

Perhaps the biggest reliever of stress, depression, and anxiety is simply taking a break. Take a step back to gain a better perspective on your circumstances. You can even pick a new focus or hobby to occupy your mind and emotions for a short while. Once you come back to focus on your situation, you will have developed a new perspective.

You may not be able to exercise all of the methods here, and you may not even need them. But is important for your health to make an effort to reduce your own stress and keep your spirits high. Not only will it help keep your NEM stress response in check, it will also reduce the stress on your adrenal glands. The NEM stress response is your body’s physiological method of dealing with stress. If you are able to reduce stress through cognitive and mental changes, then physiological symptoms may also alleviate due to the reduced burden on the NEM stress response. Knowing how to reduce tension and letting go of your stressors can thus reduce your physical symptoms and help you recover from Adrenal Fatigue.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.