Healthy Mind: Taking charge of your stress: The “I” in anxiety

Stress is inevitable. There is nothing that will entirely remove stress from our lives. That said, its effects are optional. Dawson psychologist, Johanne Godin, uses the analogy of a window when explaining stress. She illustrates that anything below or above the window signifies “unhealthy” stress. Below the window represents a lack of stress causing a deficiency of motivation, whereas anything above the window represents a surplus of stress “compromising physical, mental and cognitive abilities.” However, any stress within the window embodies the perfect amount of stress that ignites productivity and focus. The key to staying within the window’s borders is by getting, as Johanne Godin would call them, “the three pillars to good health.” These include adequate sleep, eating well and exercising daily.

Sleeping is essential in coping with stress. Studies have shown a lack of sleep enhances stress by impairing brain functions which forces the body to work in overtime. Also, an absence in sleep causes an imbalance in hormone levels promoting anxious feelings. However, stress often inhibits sleep because of mental clutter and an overflow of overpowering thoughts. Meditation is a good tool to gain mental clarity and alleviate constant thoughts. Meditation allows us to control our anxiety before it spirals out of control by allowing our breathing to relax our mind, body and soul. Thus, we will get more adequate, quality sleep every night so that we are better equipped to handle our stress!

Once we have mastered sleep, we will have more energy to exercise: the second pillar to good health. As we exercise, neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are stimulated and released. These brain chemicals allow us to feel more relaxed and much calmer; thus, our stress levels decrease. Further, studies show that establishing a set exercise routine is as powerful as medication when treating anxiety. Due to this, some doctors are beginning to prescribe exercise over anti-depressants because it is proving to be just as effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and has longer-lasting benefits.

The final pillar to good health is nutrition. Healthy food acts as fuel for our bodies and has tremendous impacts on our anxiety. Scientific evidence elucidates that, for example, when we eat high fiber, carbohydrate-rich foods, our brain produces serotonin, a relaxation hormone. Similarly, vitamin C-rich foods, such citrus fruits and leafy greens, provide antioxidants that counterpose stress. That means, eating clean is an effective way of reducing our stress levels.

Although stress is inevitable, its effects are optional. If we can practice these “three pillars to good health,” we will find that we are experiencing significantly less stress and are handling it more effectivity. I am challenging you to be more conscious of how you choose to manage your anxiety. It’s time you control your stress rather than let it control you! After all, there is an “I” in anxiety.

- Melissa xo

My name is Melissa Migueis and I am a student at Dawson College in the profile Cinema-Communications. I love to lead a healthy lifestyle by eating clean, being active and keeping a healthy mindset! Oh, and you can always find me somewhere in nature.

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