By Joe Fleming
Stress plays an important role in triggering unwanted symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Why? Well, when you feel stressed out and experience strong emotions, your blood vessels naturally constrict in your body.
Because people with Raynaud’s have over-reactive blood vessels that spasm and narrow to a point of cutting off blood flow, emotional triggers like stress can lead to an attack. Stress also encourages behaviors which can increase risk of Raynaud’s attacks, like smoking cigarettes.
If you’re looking for proven ways to relax, de-stress, and hopefully prevent a Raynaud’s attack, don’t miss these eight science-backed ideas:
Not only does a massage help your body and mind relax, but hand massage in particular has been shown to aid Raynaud’s symptoms. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute shares that a massage of joints and muscles in the hand can stimulate blood circulation to those extremities which may assist your response to an attack. Massage, especially back and neck massage, can also help release tension of stiff and sore muscles which could be negatively impacting your sleep and stress levels.
Can you really find serenity with the mindful practice of yoga? Science says yes. Numerous studies have looked at how yoga practice affects people undergoing large amounts of stress, from cancer patients to low-income kids to medical students. Not only has it been shown to significantly improve feelings of peace, focus, and endurance, but it can substantially enhance moods of positivity and self-confidence as well. Benefits of yoga for seniors, younger adults and even kids stem from the incorporation of gentle flowing movements, strengthening poses, deep breathing, and mindful meditation. Stream free instructional yoga videos online or find a class near you with sites like YogaFinder.com.
Feeling overwhelmed? Anxious? Out of sorts? Research says you should head outside, and not to a busy shopping center either, but to nature. Scientists looking at brain health, emotional response, and access to natural environments (vs. urban environments) published a 2015 report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences with some interesting findings. Participants of the study who took a 90-minute walk in a natural setting exhibited less “brooding” on negative thoughts and even less blood flow and neural activity to the part of the brain that is linked to risk for mental illness.
Releasing stress may simply be a matter of stimulating the brain through smell. For centuries, herbs, plants, and essential oils have played a role in providing stress and anxiety relief for worrisome minds, and modern scientific research is backing that up. Lavender and rosemary were shown in a 2009 study to reduce test-taking anxiety among nursing students, and other essential oils including bergamot, vetiver, and sandalwood have been linked to better sleep and improved relaxation, too.
Stress can often lead to fatigue and a sense of lacklusterness. Exercise helps combat those side effects by improving alertness, honing concentration, and boosting cognitive function. Especially important for people with Raynaud’s, exercise inherently boosts blood flow and is key to circulating blood to vulnerable extremities. In addition to reinforcing strong heart, muscle, and bone health, aerobic exercise when done regularly has also been shown to stimulate endorphin production, a feel-good hormone in your body which acts as a natural painkiller.
Play with Your Pet
Pets, especially canines, are widely incorporated into therapy and service programs, offering a calming and soothing presence for all types of people, from kids with autism to older adults with dementia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2015 that evidence showed a decreased probability in childhood anxiety when a pet dog lived in the home. Don’t own a dog? Offer to volunteer at a local animal rescue, sign up to foster a dog in your own home, or ask friends and neighbors if you can walk or pet sit for them.
Coloring and other forms of what can be called “art therapy” paint a picture of stress relief in a handful of ways. Coloring is believed to help your brain focus on positive and beautiful thoughts and images, helping to release negative tension and improve concentration. A 2016 experimental study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that participants had significantly lower cortisol levels (stress hormone) after making art, and they reported personal feelings of enjoyment, stress relief, and freedom associated with the activity.
Whether it’s the warm fuzzies you get when you’re lending a helping hand, or simply the broader perspective you gain on life when you serve those less fortunate than yourself, volunteering can be transformative. Harvard Medical School shares a growing body of evidence that links regular volunteering to numerous health benefits, from reduced stress levels to a lowered risk of developing high blood pressure. Part of the belief is that donating your time to others helps you stay socially connected and boosts your self-esteem.
What are your go-to stress relief strategies? What activities have been most effective in helping prevent a Raynaud’s attack? Please share what works for you!
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.