Feeling stressed? Peter Miller shares these calming tips
These days, it seems like we’re all busier and more stressed out than ever — and that’s not a good thing. Chronic stress can have all kinds of bad effects on your health, from increased blood pressure to headaches. As a professional angler and television host who has to juggle a busy and often chaotic schedule, I’m very aware of how important stress management is.
Stress also causes neck and back pain. Before my surgery at Laser Spine Institute, there were a lot of days when carrying around tension would result in a flare-up of back pain. I could be out on the boat or going to the gym after a stressful phone call and pain would rear its ugly head. The worst part is that dealing with the pain can be its own source of stress. It’s a vicious cycle sometimes.
Here’s the good news: You can take control of your stress. And it’s easier than you think. Even though I’ve found relief, I know avoiding stress to relieve back pain is worth the effort if it’s affecting you. Here are a few simple tips that help me stay calm and relaxed when things get hectic.
Step away from the screen
In today’s society, with social media and the frequency of quick hits and looks at your feed, keeping up with who’s doing what can be a drain on your time and energy. Limiting your screen time can have a positive impact on your mental health and potentially decrease the stress in your life. I like to use this time to myself to take a walk outside and enjoy nature — which can help calm you down even more.
Find your groove
Whether you’re listening on your headphones or playing it yourself, music is one of the best stress relievers out there. I like to play the djembe, which is an African hand drum. Just warming up and playing for eight or 10 minutes gets me into a zone where everything is flowing. It’s an amazing stress reliever and can set the tone for the entire day. If you don’t play an instrument, just listening to some good music can get you energized in the morning or help you unwind and relax at night.
Here’s an easy one: drink water. A lot of people get dehydrated from sports and other activities — it’s a huge risk for me when I’m out on the boat for days at a time. Obviously this can lead to neck or back pain by itself, but you may be wondering what it has to do with stress. The answer is that, like any organ, your brain needs water to function properly. A dehydrated brain is not going to respond properly to stressful situations, which is why water is such an important stress reliever that can help with back pain.
Just like hydration, eating the right or wrong foods can have a huge effect on your stress levels. My diet isn’t always perfect, but I try to watch my carbohydrates and stay away from inflammatory foods as much as possible. Meanwhile, essential nutrients like protein and vitamins A and C have been shown to be great brain food. My go-to healthy foods include pineapple, broccoli, cauliflower and, of course, fish. Some fish, such as swordfish and tuna, have higher levels of mercury — so it’s advisable to only eat six to eight ounces per month of each.
Treat yourself to a massage
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, stress and tension can build up. For me, this is when I say I’m just going to treat myself to a relaxing massage. There are so many different options — from a relaxing Swedish massage to a hot stone massage. In those heavy-duty situations, when I’m feeling sore from being on the boat for 12 hours a day, two days straight, I might go in for more intensive neuromuscular work the next week. No matter what you choose, this can be one of the most effective stress relievers that helps with neck pain or back pain.
Lock in your bedtime routine
Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on your ability to handle stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, getting into a calming bedtime routine can be a big help. For me, that means taking a warm shower, stretching, putting on my favorite chill-out music station and lowering the lights. Find what works for you — chamomile tea, meditation, aromatherapy — but the goal is to be calm and quiet down so you can grab quality sleep.
Don’t let back pain run your life
Avoiding stress to relieve back pain should become a core part of your spine care plan, along with more conventional options like physical therapy or over-the-counter medication. However, if you’ve exhausted conservative treatment options without finding relief, do what I did and reach out to the caring team at Laser Spine Institute.
They’ll be happy to provide you with a free review of your MRI* to determine if you are a potential candidate for their minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery.