How to Successfully Manage Stress and Live a Healthier Life
Stress is one of the most destructive emotions in the world.
We all know stress is bad. But few of us realize how bad stress can be on our bodies. When the body is stressed, it reacts in the following ways:
-Blood pressure rises
-Breathing becomes more rapid
-Digestion rate slows
-Heart rate rises
-Immune system becomes less effective
-Muscles become tense
-Heightened state of alertness makes it difficult to sleep
All of these physiological conditions lead to further problems. Our weak immune system increases our chances of getting sick, for example, and our difficulty falling asleep creates more stress.
In other words, stress creates a feedback loop in the body. If you want to successfully manage stress, you need to cut that loop and end the cycle.
Here are a few ways you can reduce stress and live a happier, healthier life.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet and Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
“You are what you eat” is one of those silly expressions thrown around by pseudo-nutritionists. That expression doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it can be applied to stress. When the body doesn’t get the vitamins and nutrients it needs on a daily basis, it experiences physical stress.
Most of us know that eating junk food is bad for us. If you’re stressed, however, you may turn to comfort foods. That may provide short-term relief, but not long-term treatment.
If you genuinely want to reduce stress in your life, then start with your diet. Reduce coffee intake (caffeine has been directly linked to stress levels), avoid excessive alcohol intake (Alcohol increases the stress response of humans), and eat balanced meals three times per day, or little snacks instead of big meals to keep blood sugar stable. If this sounds overwhelming (because it does for most people that are stressed!) start with small changes. Do half decaf coffee for a week while your body transitions to decaf. Bring a snack of apples to work so you’re not tempted to sugar or vending machines. Any small change is a gift you’re giving to your body to move toward healing.
Exercise a Little More Each Day
You might already exercise a little bit each day. Maybe you walk up the stairs at work or lift weights at the gym.
But most of us agree that we’re not getting enough exercise. Set a minimum target goal for yourself and stick to that goal. Aim to raise your heartbeat to 120-180 beats per minute for at least 30 minutes per day. You don’t have to squeeze in that thirty minutes all at once. Spread it out throughout the day.
Don’t like running? Hate elliptical machines? Try going for a walk. One study showed that adults over 40 who walked briskly for at least 150 minutes a week saw their life expectancy increase 3 to 5 years! If you pick out your favorite music, or an audiobook you’ve been dying to hear, the walk can be a great way to check-out for awhile and relax your mind as well.
Train Your Brain
You’re eating healthier, you’re exercising more, and you’re getting a good amount of sleep every night. But you’re still feeling stressed.
Now that you’ve trained your body, it’s time to train your brain. Here are some things to consider when training your brain to deal with stress:
-Focus on what works: Acknowledge the positive aspects of your life. Think about your good qualities and allow yourself to meditate on gratitude and what that means to you. Even if you don’t believe in the “power of positive thinking”, you can help your brain feel happier by CHOOSING TO FOCUS ON WHAT IS GOOD AROUND YOU. There are thousands of things to notice, try to noticing what IS working. There are things that are momentary joys in everyone’s life. The trick is to allow yourself to notice AND feel them. Even if just for a moment.
-Organize your life: Stress often comes from having too many things to do and not enough time to do them. To manage this type of stress, consider writing down a list of goals and tasks. Start with the most important task and work your way down. Give yourself freedom to cross of tasks that don’t need to be done TODAY. Often we can be guilty of “musts” and “shoulds”…but most of these “musts” and “shoulds” simply aren’t true if we really look at them objectively. Remember, everything important almost always gets done. Everything doesn’t always get done, but everything important tends to get completed.
–Avoid worrying about things you cannot change: In many cases, stress boils down to “worrying about things we cannot change”. Instead of worrying about things you cannot change, worry about how you react to those changes. If you can successfully train your brain to react positively to external stress, sharpening where you want to go, you’ve given yourself a valuable lifelong lesson.
Talk to a Counsellor to Permanently Conquer Stress
Counsellors can help you implement all of the above lifestyle changes. Changing your lifestyle on your own can be extremely difficult. Most people feel like they are failing when they can’t accomplish these things themselves, but It isn’t about willpower or self-control. Just as we need doctors and dentists to keep our bodies healthy, we can also need mental health professionals trained to help us reach our goals. psychologists can give you tools you need to manage your stress, identify what you really want, and start experiencing the fulfillment you long for.
To book your free 20 minute consultation session with Living Well, . If stress or stress related issues such as anxiety, panic attacks or insomnia are the reason for your seeking treatment, make sure to mention this on your intake form and we will connect you with a professional that specializes in this area.