We will never fully evade stress in this life, but we can learn to more effectively control, manage, and relieve our stressors- whatever they are! Stress comes our way through people, places, or things. The intrusion of that stressor alters the state we were in mentally or physically, creating tension that we can feel both mentally and physically. In short, stress is real!
Stress is a natural thing and can be a good thing when we really need that fight or flight mechanism to kick in. The problem is that too many of us live under constant stress which compromises our wellbeing when it is un-acknowledged, un-released, and un-relieved. Over secretions of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are helpful in the short run, but can cause the body to malfunction when stress is chronic and not managed correctly.
Stress may lead to a pounding heart, rapid breath, high blood pressure, tense muscles, headaches, stomach aches, sleepless nights, frantic thoughts, knee jerk reactions, unhealthy eating, excess weight, disease, addictions, depression; you fill in your own blank based on what happens to you when you’re stressed out. Bottom line, chronic stress is TOXIC!
Learn to clearly identify stressors without sugar coating, suppressing or denying. Identified stressors then go into one of two categories: one we CAN directly control, and we should by changing something, the other we CAN’T directly control therefore we need to stop trying as this leads to MORE stress. What is under your direct control? YOU and YOUR CHOICES. What is NOT under your direct control? Most everything and everyone else. Both are equally stressful, but we don’t want to expend our energy outside our clear and rightful domain. I love this from A.A. – “Clean your OWN side of the street.”
So what can we do to relieve, release, and mange the inevitable stress in our lives?
EXERCISE is the best medicine. Any form will do. 30 minutes has the value of an anti depressant pill with no side effects. Cardio in particular improves your sense of well-being as it pumps up your endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. It doesn’t change anything on the outside, you still have to do the work but it does distract the mind from its stressors, resulting in fresh mental energy, optimism, calm and clarity. Increase self confidence as you build strength, flexibility, & endurance, thus lowering the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. It can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life. Take my 7 day exercise test:
1.Take a 20 minute minimum brisk walk every day for the next 7 days. Note how you feel before & after.
2.Spend 20-30 minutes using free weights, bands, or weight machines vigorously enough to tire your muscles without over exerting 3 x in the next 7 days. Journal how your mind and body feel.
3.Stretch for 10 minutes for the next 7 days. Lengthen each major muscle for about 20 seconds. Focus your mind fully on what your body is doing. Breathe slowly, steadily, and consciously through each stretch as a calming mechanism. Not sure what to do? Take a class, or watch a DVD. Check out www.oaksspa.com for stretch DVD’s, CD’s, & booklets. Track how your flexibility improves in just 7 days.
4.Find your body bliss. What do you love to do? Get that bike out of the shed, find a dance class, take a swim, hire a trainer, or go for a hike. Do ONE thing you love physically for at least an hour in the next 7 days.
5.Don’t let work get in the way. For the next work week, take every break that is rightfully yours. Take your full lunch break all week. Get up. Get out. Eat something nutritious, then go outside if possible for some fresh air and sunshine!
EATING WELL: Stress eating is a real thing! When you know you’re “feelin’ it” pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. Does it pass the nutrition test? In the long run is it going to help? Too much caffeine will make you jumpy. Too much sugar will pull you up then knock you down. Too much alcohol may feel like an upper, but it’s short lived and has many side effects. Comfort food may do the trick in the moment but chances are you’ll regret it later. Fresh fruits and veggies and other foods rich in good fats, lean proteins, and complex carbs are going to stabilize you mentally and give you true energy, not set your nerves on edge! Eat your breakfast! Studies show that the longer you wait to eat the more grumpy you become as your body fights to find nutrients to fuel you.
GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP: Stress is a sleep robber. We may be able to function when we’re fatigued, but we’re diminished. We need at least 7 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
BREATHING sounds obvious, but taking time to just breathe deeply and slowly is an amazing built in calming mechanism that we can utilize at any time in any place. Let the conscious breathe slow you down, focus your thoughts, and take things down a notch.
We can all more effectively control, manage, and relieve our inevitable stressors- let’s, shall we?