> Skip repeated content

5 Tricks to Help Your Body Better Handle Stress

You might not be able to remove all stress from your life, but you can equip yourself to deal to with it more easily.

Though it may be impossible to eliminate everyday stressors, there are simple actions you can take to put your body in the best position to deal with them. Here are a few ideas:

Image - photo for 5 Tricks to Help Your Body Better Handle Stress

Eat your breakfast (and snacks)

We might be inclined to blame stress for feelings of fatigue—but it could just be that we’re hungry. “Aim to eat every three to four hours,” says Danna Raphael, RD, CDN, a clinical nutritionist at HSS. “That means three small-to-moderate-size meals and two snacks [per day].” Each should contain a balance of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. The still-popular avocado toast—which is simply whole wheat toast with half an avocado on top—fills the bill (and the belly) nicely. Add an egg for extra protein. You can find more ideas and tips in “The Do’s and Don’ts of Eating for Energy” or read about how a dietitian can help you build a healthier relationship with food.

Do a mental “body scan”

To set a foundation of relaxation, HSS certified meditation instructor Claudia Zurlini recommends taking a few minutes to do a total-body scan using guided meditation. This begins with turning off your electronic devices, settling into a comfortable position in a chair, and focusing on each body part—one by one—while inhaling and exhaling deeply. (Let her voice lead you through the “Relax & Restore Mindfulness Practice” on this video.) On each exhalation, imagine you’re releasing any “expectations, judgment, any thoughts that aren’t serving you right now,” says Zurlini.

Address chronic pain

Pain is a physical stressor that can impact everything you do in a day, as well as contribute to mental and physical tension. All too often, though, people simply suffer through it, unsure of what to do. That’s where “pain science education” comes in. According to Vincent Luppino, PT, DPT, CSCS, from the HSS Orthopedic Physical Therapy Center, when people learn more about pain and how to manage it, they can feel less fearful and more hopeful. To understand the difference between chronic and acute pain and learn about various treatment options, check out “Identifying and Treating Chronic Pain” by Joseph C. Hung, MD, an assistant attending physician at HSS Stamford.

Get moving a little more

Mobility exercises not only improve your range of motion, they also can help counteract everyday stressors, says Pamela Geisel, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist and manager of Performance Services at the HSS Tisch Sports Performance Center. “Yoga is often what comes to mind, but spending some time on a foam roller or using a stretch strap is beneficial as well.” She also recommends 30 minutes of cardio per day to boost mood and a few sessions of strength training per week to build strength. Read more in “Building a Fitness Plan If You’re New to Exercise.

Stretch before bed

Just 10 minutes of gentle stretching can help you transition from stressful day into restful sleep, says Anna Ribaudo, PT, DPT, OCS, Capp-OB and a clinical supervisor at HSS Midtown. It also can help the body rejuvenate itself during sleep, notes Sheena Alva, PT, DPT, OCS, an orthopedic clinical specialist at HSS. Don’t wait until just before lights out or you might be inclined to skip it, says Ribaudo. Instead, make it part of your pre-bed routine—say, after you switch into PJs but before brushing your teeth. Feel free to move your body (gently!) in whatever way feels good, or follow the 10-stretch routine shown here.