New research shows that over 1 in 3 Canadian adults are reporting burnout and stress and a high percentage of doctor visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Prolonged stress can affect both mental and physical health. Now more than ever, taking active, intentional action to reduce stress is critical. The good news is, there are ways to combat this feeling. According to experts, because burnout can be chronic in nature, prevention strategies are considered the most effective approach for addressing it. Here are 6 strategies to help keep you physically and mentally healthy during times of stress.

Exercise

Staying active is a great way to relieve stress, get energized and improve your mood. Physical activity releases endorphins in your body – making you feel calm, less anxious and happier. A study from Harvard University suggests that walking fast for 30 minutes per day, five times a week, can improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute daily exercise sessions can work just as well!

Eat healthy

What and when you eat has a great effect on your physical and mental health. Try to avoid refined and processed foods that not only lack nutrients, but can lower your energy levels and affect your mood. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats, provide your mind and body with nutrients that stabilize your blood sugar and energy levels. Don’t forget to hydrate!

Sleep

A common side effect of stress is struggling to fall asleep, which can lead to insomnia – an inability to fall and stay asleep. Sleep can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression and help us regulate our emotional response. Each individual has different needs, but the general consensus is that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. It has been shown that even partial sleep deprivation increases the level of cortisol the next day. If you’re having trouble falling asleep due to stress, consider talking to a healthcare professional who can assess your sleep and medical history and get you on the right path to better sleep.

Get outdoors

Did you know that the average Canadian spends over 11 hours a day in front of a screen? Research tells us that when people are connected to nature, they are healthier and happier. Spending time outside increases exposure to natural light and can improve your focus and mood, and lower your stress levels. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, just 20 minutes in nature can significantly lower your cortisol levels. Taking a ‘nature-pill’ might just be what the doctor orders!

Practice relaxation

The relationship between the mind and the body is very strong. Providing yourself with a small amount of relaxation or “time-out” every day – even just 15 minutes – can improve your health dramatically. Dr Ramchandani, an integrative medicine specialist at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine recommends a basic breathing exercise, such as taking 10 very slow breaths in and out. Or try an imagery exercise where you imagine being in your favorite place and all of the sensations you’d experience there – such as sight, sound and smell. Hold this image for a few minutes and notice the relaxing effect it has on your breathing and heart rate.

Ask for help

It’s normal to feel stressed at times. But long-term stress can cause physical and emotional symptoms and unhealthy behaviors. Try managing stress using a few simple strategies. But if you feel overwhelmed, reach out to a healthcare professional for help. Sometimes simply talking to a doctor about your concerns and creating a plan can make a big difference.

Connect with an Ontario doctor

If you’re looking for support and would like to speak with an Ontario doctor, visit  www.tuliphealth.ca. Tulip Health is a virtual, phone-based, walk-in clinic that provides non-emergency related healthcare. Our doctors are trained to assess mental health concerns and make the appropriate recommendations or referrals to specialists. Tulip Health offers same-day or next-day appointments any day of the week. It’s easy to use and it’s covered by OHIP. To book an appointment, visit www.tuliphealth.ca.