2024 is here and the first month of it is almost gone. How are you? Seriously. Take a deep breath, exhale, and consider how you feel now. Does your life look like you want it to? What can you do to improve? What about those resolutions? At Innova Primary Care, we treat the mind, body, and soul. We know that health is complex and has many components, and we want to see all our patients thrive in 2024. Today, we will tackle mental health and stress and provide a proven way to help your cognitive load.

Whether you feel like you are on the right track or have some adjustments to make, read on for some tips and ways you can make it a great year.

Stress and health

The impact of stress on health is well known. From mental health to cardiovascular health, stress plays an important role. According to a 2023 study from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine, 81% of Americans report feeling stress. These stressors include the state of our nation and the international political climate, rising prices, illnesses, spending for the holiday season, and even past memories.

The reality is we are a stressed nation, with many of us stressed out because we feel stressed! While stress is meant to alert us to dangers, many of us live in a heightened state of stress that impacts our daily health. We cannot do away with all the circumstances that cause stress in our lives, but we can take control where possible to help alleviate or eliminate the results of that stress.

We are not here to say that a zero-stress life is sustainable, but we do believe there are proven actions you can take to help take the edge off. So, let’s get into it.


Start with a clean slate…sort of

Here’s the deal: January 1st is just another day. Sure, it has more of a power punch than most other days, as it is the start of a brand-new year. However, you can’t just press delete and start over. We are all coming from somewhere, just as we are all headed to another place. The same holds true for your life. You cannot just abandon everything and start completely over.

But you can clean up areas of your life.

Start with a clean space. Yep, good old-fashioned housework may be just what the doctor ordered to help you start the new year fresh. Did you know that decluttering your space positively impacts your mental health and well-being and can’t help alleviate stress in your life?

When you declutter your space, you might feel energized by the activity. You will also prove to yourself that you can complete a task, which is stress relief in and of itself. Not only this, but decluttering allows your mind to wander, which creates mindfulness, yet another way to help reduce stress.

Find ways to elicit the Relaxation Response

The Relaxation Response, coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, is the opposite of the body’s stress response. It is a state of slowing down, and believe it or not, is something you can create on your own in various ways. The relaxation response refers to a state of “deep rest that changes a person’s physical and emotional response to stress.”

You can achieve the relaxation response in several ways through meditation, repetitive motion, and prayer. First, try sitting quietly for 10 to 20 minutes with a single word as your focus. Continue to breathe deeply in and out and return your mind to that phrase. If your mind wanders, which is normal, refocus on your chosen word. Repetitive movement, such as running or walking, can do the trick. The key is to find something that works for you and stick with it.

If the thought of relaxing gets you tied up in knots, you are not alone. Many people feel stressed out by the thought of trying to meditate or slow down. It’s normal.

Get outside

There is a reason why sunsets on the beach are so soothing and outdoor walks in the woods are just plain good for the soul. Nature has healing powers that even our ancient ancestors recognized. The same holds true in our modern world. Research proves that a 20-minute

outdoor walk can help lower cortisol, the stress hormone. Not only do you get the privilege of experiencing the great outdoors, but you are also getting in some tremendous non-impact cardiovascular exercise, which is also proven to help reduce stress.

You don’t have to be an outdoors enthusiast to reap the mental health rewards of nature, either. If you don’t want to get outside and move your body or cannot, try to find a window that lets in light. Set a bird feeder close to a window in your home so you can see nature up close. You can even bring plants indoors to enjoy nature from inside. Whatever you choose, remember that nature really is a healer, and you can experience the stress-relieving benefits of nature no matter what.


Don’t skimp on sleep

If you’ve read any of our previous posts, we might sound like a broken record with this one. But, it needs to be said that sleep is invaluable when it comes to stress relief. There is a relationship between sleep and stress. Unfortunately, when stressed, sleep is more of a challenge. Stress can impact sleep duration and sleep quality.

However, don’t stop trying. Sleep is essential to help with memory consolidation and hormone regulation, and it positively impacts stress levels. Did you know that good sleep helps reduce cortisol? If stress reduction is your goal, create a sleep hygiene system that gives you the best chance of incredible rest.

We are looking forward to a great new year

Even if your 2024 does not look like you want, you can still improve your stress level one small change at a time. Don’t let the idea of a stress-free life consume you! Small changes really do add up. Take some time to declutter your spaces if you can, get outside and enjoy the world’s beauty, or create indoor spaces that let the light of nature inside. And remember to rest!

At Innova Primary Care, we are dedicated to helping our patients thrive. If you feel overwhelmed and stress is getting to you, please reach out. Happy 2024!