We cannot control a lot of the stress in our life.
Stress happens with both positive and negative situations. How we manage stress is paramount to our overall health. If you are wondering what your stress score is, you can fill out the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory for your last 12 months. Notice that vacations, getting married, buying a new house, fighting less with a spouse, and making more money than before are all stressors. Positive stress still affects the body negatively, when there is too much. Kind of like, even too much kale is still too much.
When we exercise, we are putting stress on our body.
Not in a way that counts towards the stress inventory. However, if you don’t give your body the time, water, and proper fuel to recover from a workout, it will become a negative on your body. Pay attention to your body, do you need more active recovery time or more electrolytes or an extra day off a week? Our body works hard when we eat food, which puts stress on our digestion system. Some people need to eat less food, more frequently while others need a smaller eating window within the day. Even the type of foods that a person handles best differs between individuals. Our body tries very hard to stay at homeostasis. Remember learning about that? It wants to maintain the same weight, temperature, blood pressure, and even water levels. This is why exercise and eating are ways that we stress our body. Now, it is good to do these things, we just need to learn how our body handles it best. And work towards living more that way.
Back to the stress inventory.
Since we cannot control all of the stressors, or maybe because we want/need them, we need to look at how we handle them. It is always important to remember that therapy and medications are sometimes the best course of action for helping us manage the stress in our life. I am going to share six different ways you can help manage the stress in your life.
The first, of course, is exercise.
This can be a daily walk or a three times a week fitness class. Studies have shown that when it comes to our overall health, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of physical activity has the most positive impact. If you are doing a higher intensity, you may max at those benefits in under 30 minutes. A HIIT style workout is typically not effective 4 or more times a week. When it comes to mental health, and cardiovascular health, you may find yourself adding a gentle jog after your 20 minute class to maximize all benefits.
Next, is mindfulness and meditation.
Being present in the moment, training your brain to acknowledge random thoughts without ruminating is so beneficial. I wrote about meditation back in 2017. Wish I had written when I started meditating, but I mentioned it took me a year to feel successful. Probably, I had started in 2015 or 16 with the Oprah and Deepak challenge. I still recommend people try starting with something like Buddhify over Oprah, which was more chanting and music. The app has so many meditations for every day activities, and they are guided which helps a beginner on their journey. I currently use Insight Timer and enjoy the daily journal and option for courses or one-off meditation.
Along with therapy and medication is coaching.
A life coach, a business coach, a fitness coach, a nutrition coach, the opportunities are endless. All are a little different in what they offer. They align in that you are using an impartial outside party to help you work through next action steps.
A highly underrated way to help manage stress is just to get outside.
I’m writing this when it will be -3 overnight tonite. While the sun is out right now, it will be dark long before I’m off work at 7 tonite. Walking outside, in the dark and freezing temperatures may not sound enjoyable to you. Maybe, you can sit by a window and take in some sunlight while you work. Fresh air and sunlight both have positive attributes to help our mind and body. While taking in fresh air and sunlight together isn’t always possible (hello forever days in a row with no sunshine in the midwest), try to get one or the other every day.
The most confusing way to help manage stress is to eat healthier.
Mass marketing has not helped us to determine what is healthy. We do know that our gut health is directly linked to our mental health. The more food you eat, the less junk you consume, the better off you feel. Instead of stressing over if grapes have too much sugar, remember that grapes are better than candy any day. If you are looking to optimize your physical health, you can work with someone on your nutrition. When it comes to your mental health, grab a bottle of water and some real food.
My secret weapon to combating stress is sleep hygiene.
Arianna Huffington made waves in 2016 when she stepped down from Huffington Post. She was hospitalized in 2014 for exhaustion, and she found it to be a wake-up call. She dove into research and started focusing on the importance of sleep hygiene. In 2013, I had a business, an infant, a toddler, and an active teenager. I ate up all that Huffington was writing about. I was sleep-deprived to the max and trying to maximize my energy. The number one key to waking up and being productive in the morning is getting to bed on time. Creating a bedtime routine, or sleep hygiene helps encourage our body and mind to be ready for rest.
Another way to manage stress is to improve your time management.
When Ty was in high school, I hired an executive functioning tutor for him. She basically was teaching him time management tips and tricks, keeping him organized. Those in my life know that I love to pack my day full of things. I try to be realistic with the amount of time things will take, and I very intentionally add things into my day/week/month that fill me up. I schedule downtime and fun time, it can’t be all work all the time. It is important to me to make sure they happen, and scheduling them is one way I accomplish that.
The last way to combat stress is spending time with family and friends.
Humans are social beings who have an innate need to feel social connection. If you have a toxic relationship with your family, work on those friendships instead. In fact, part of your stress management may be setting better boundaries around your family. If you have trouble making/maintaining friends, go back to my therapy comment. Working through things with a therapist can help you in your social life. Using social media is not the same as social connection. Studies have actually shown that the more we are on social media, the less we feel connected.
Which of these items spoke to you as something you do really well?
Keep doing that! Which one of these sounds like something you can work on improving? The better we manage our stress, the better our bodies feel as we work through daily, stressful life.