As a follow up from my last article – Too Much Stress and Your Health, I’m posting this followup to offer some practical and highly effective ways for coping with that stress monster.
The Problem of Modern Stress:
Remember, most of us in the busyness of our lives, cannot just “up and run” from stressful situations. Not only that, but the stressors of modern day living require us to cope with stress while being sedentary or inactive in our jobs. Instead of staying and fighting, we often must ruminate in the stressful situation, without being able to act upon the stressor in a physical way. This, in turn, causes us a serious dilemma. It’s not so easy to resolve our biological “fight or flight” mechanism – the one that is activated each time we are stressed. This particular scenario, unchecked and repeated on a daily basis, subtly begins to throw the body out of balance and sends the victim spiraling downward towards a state of ill health. See Figure 1 in diagram.
Within my wellness practice, I often use the example of a circle or inflated ball to represent well-being (a person in a state of proper balance and optimum health). See Figure 2 below. In order to maintain that resilient, bouncy, inflated nature of being well, a person must establish a wellness protocol as a part of their daily existence. This protocol is what breathes life and health into our wellness circle or ball and reinforces that buoyancy and inflation that we all so desire. As you begin to enact and practice a proper wellness protocol, your life will begin to inflate and repel the stressors that can so easily disrupt and destroy.
No longer will the stressors deflate and change your shape. With a solid wellness protocol practiced and in place, you will be able to prevent your daily stressors from defeating and destroying your mental and physical health. If you’re wondering what particular “wellness protocol” you can implement in your life to manage and ward off stress and achieve balance, take a look below.
How to Keep Stress from Destroying Your Health:
1. Identify the Stressors in Your Life.
This may seem unimportant, but the truth is many of us have no clue where a lot of our stress is coming from, short of the obvious. Knowing what your stressors are, particularly the hidden stressors, can do wonders for coping. It’s very difficult to fight what we cannot see or what we do not know. Do the hard work of uncovering the real stressors in your life.
2. Become Active.
Exercise is one of the most direct ways to lower high levels of cortisol and alleviate the stress response in the body. It directly counteracts that innate “fight or flight” response. Sweating activity is a great way to get your body back into a state of balance. Get your heart pounding. Your body will release endorphins (nature’s own opiate), reduce pain and make you feel better. It will also boost serotonin levels in the brain (the same thing that Prozac is meant to do, only without the side effects). Remember “fight or flight.” Both require that you physically move your body.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep.
An occasional restless night is normal. But, if most nights become a burden due to lack of sleep, you’ve got a problem. Not getting enough quality sleep causes hormonal imbalances in the body, namely issues with cortisol (too much), leptin (a fat hormone that tells your brain to stop eating) and serotonin (happy hormone), just to name a few. Sleeping 7 to 9 quality hours a night, will help keep these hormones at healthy levels. Believe it or not sleeping longer and better will help you lose weight and do wonders for coping with daily stress.
4. Place Proper Boundaries and Structure in your life.
Many of us conduct our lives in a haphazard way – usually not on purpose, but out of ignorance. Setting clear goals, formulating a structured plan and applying good life principles will go a long way in avoiding and coping with stress. Many of us tend to feel powerless over circumstances, particularly as stress levels increase. Of course, some things are unavoidable, but many things, we can control. Adopting a strategy, by which you govern your life, will give you more control over difficult situations and stress. This consists of setting up rules and principles that you live by to keep you safe, healthy, sane, and away from harmful areas. Make sure to write these down and follow them. They should be gospel for your life. Below are a few simple examples:
- I will not bring my work home with me.
- I will not work weekends.
- I will not eat fast food.
- I will educate myself on what’s important (career skills, nutrition, fitness, health, faith, etc.).
- My family comes first.
- I will always be faithful to my spouse.
- I will tell my wife/husband/children that I love her/him/them every day.
- I will consciously practice one act of kindness each day.
- I will attend church every Sunday.
- I will always go to bed by 10 p.m.
- I will do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Again, setting up this type of strategy will keep you thriving and away from things that cause overstress in your life. Structure (such as this) will further keep you buoyant and resilient when under duress, while reinforcing boundaries that keep you in a safe, protected zone.
5. Clean Up Your Mess.
Many of us invite undue stress upon ourselves simply because we don’t handle problems as they arise. If you commonly choose avoidance and escapism over the momentary discomfort of dealing with your problems as they occur, you’re going to raise your stress levels. No matter what your causes of stress may be, don’t make them worse by not resolving issues in a timely manner. If you’re gaining weight or are overweight (a huge source of nutritional and psychological stress), quit procrastinating and take charge of your life by learning to eat better – TODAY! If your house or office is a mess, clean it up. You’ll feel a lot less stressed because of it. If your child is making bad grades at school, start dealing with it today before the situation worsens. Being proactive and taking charge of problem situations will do wonders for healthfully eliminating and properly managing stress in your life.
6. Give Your Body Every Nutritional Advantage.
Believe it or not, what we eat has a direct impact on our body’s stress mechanism and can even contribute to it. The following foods will most likely increase your stress levels and wreak havoc with your moods: sugar (all types), caffeine, artificial sweeteners, bread, improperly prepared grains and legumes, processed foods, etc. Your best bet for nutritional advantage is to stick with real, clean, natural and organic types of foods. Buy organic, grass-fed meats and vegetables, raw dairy and the like. Make sure you are well hydrated at all times. There’s much more to say about this, but the point is simple – Nourish your body in the best way, so that your mind and body function at peak capacity, no matter what’s happening around you! This will allow you be mentally and physically agile to handle external stressors. For more information, check out this short article I wrote.
7. Keep Your Thinking in Check.
Do you know someone that always seems to be having problems? Perhaps every time you’re around them they’re complaining, always having an issue, always negative. Are you like this? Or, maybe you don’t talk about it so much, but you tend to have a negative outlook. Instead, watch your perspective. Make sure you work on your perspective and focus on being a “glass half-full” type of person. Just remember, there are two sides to every situation. Focusing on the negative will only make your situation worse and alienate those around you. Your stress will not get any better by doing this. Even worse is that you’ll stress everyone else out around you. It’s better to be a ray of sunshine than a dark cloud around others.
8. Practice Active Relaxation.
Every day, make a conscious effort to do something to relax. I’m not just talking about taking a nap here. Active relaxation involves actually doing something to relieve stress, such as: yoga, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, massage therapy, acupuncture, taking a hot salt bath, spending time in prayer and meditation (which will help with #7 above), taking a walk through the woods, playing with your kids, listening to relaxing music. Make sure you take enough vacations a year. These relaxtion activities should be a regular part of your existence.
There is so much more than can be said about the topic of coping with stress. The important thing to remember is that all of the above should become a part of your daily existence and work to formulate a good, healthy structure for your life (as mentioned in #4 above). If each of these are incorporated into your daily routine, become part of your structure, you will find yourself effectively coping with stress and maintaining a level of wellness like never before.
If you would like for me to present a seminar on stress at your place of work or business, please contact me HERE. If you’re an individual who needs some personal coaching in the area of stress reduction, please contact me HERE.