Updated: Jul 19
When stress comes into your life you might suddenly find yourself struggling. Feeling challenged to maintain healthy habits, you may find yourself wrangling with frustration, disappointment and doubt.
And when stress becomes a constant, your body can remain in high gear, in a state of fight or flight for days, weeks or even months at a time. And that chronic stress will often lead folks to turn to less healthy behaviors in an effort to soothe discomfort and feel better fast, which is why reducing daily stress is such an important part of supporting your mind, body and spirit.
Think a moment about how you react to stress.
Do you eat? Drink? Spend money? Become short tempered? Do you do or say things you wouldn’t normally?
Maybe you can relate to one or several of these coping mechanisms, and yet it is these kinds of self-sabotaging behaviors that will often lead to even more stress. This creates a domino effect, causing us to engage in one unhealthy behavior after another, until we suddenly realize, the wheels have fallen off. How can you break the stress cycle and redirect your focus in a more positive and thoughtful way? With the support of these four tips.
Tip #1: Take a “time-out.”
Ever notice how our immediate reaction and the corresponding impulsive act that follows often fades over time? That pint of Ben & Jerry’s seemed a great coping tool in the moment, but then it left you feeling bloated and sick to your stomach. How about those shoes you couldn’t afford but you threw them on the credit card anyway as form of retail therapy, then later worried about the money you spent realizing you needed it to pay bills. Now not only do you have the original stressor, but a whole new stressor to contend with....ad the stress cycle of “why did I do that?” is born. Next time you are faced with a stressor, take a step back - stop, look, and listen. When we are able to take a momnt to assess the needs of the situation we are better able to make more informed decisions. Taking just 5 deep breaths can provide you with enough time to slow down the knee jerk stress response, calm the mind and enable you to think more clearly before deciding how you act.
Tip #2: Ask yourself “Is this in my control?”
So often we want to control what is completely out of our control – traffic, other people, weather, prices of goods…you name it we want to control it! In reality we only have very little (if any) control over our environment, however we do have control of ourselves. This is good news as it means your choices on how you manage a stressor are within your control. In other words, you can choose how to manage your relationships, where to have boundaries, establish healthy behavior patterns, and what, where and how you will hold these values. Instead of focusing on the stressor you cannot change or control, focus on how you will cope with it. If you are stuck in traffic will you listen to a book on tape or podcast you've been wanting to hear instead of huffing and puffing and allowing road rage to get the best of you? What if you take a walk to think through your thoughts and feelings instead of reaching for the pint of ice cream or a glass of wine? How about writing your feelings down on paper instead of yelling at a friend, family member or significant other?
Tip #3: Reframe your perspective.
Reframing is a healthy coping strategy that allows us to change our perception in a positive way. Choosing to see the good and positive aspects of a situation – the the light at the end of the tunnel or the silver lining if you will – gives us something positive to focus on, it fosters optimism, and reminds us that where we are and what we are feeling is temporary. It is like knowing when you get to the top of the mountain the view is going to be worth the difficult trek up to the top. Mindset is a powerful thing, and it is all yours!
Tip #4: Have a back-up plan.
Now that you know how important it is to have a healthy coping strategy to turn to, make sure you have more than one. What happens if your go to is to head outside for a walk but you look outside and it's raining sideways with gusts of wind? What if you are all set to listen to that podcast then realize your smartphone is dead and you left your charger at home? Now what??? It is easy to see the challenge that might come from having a single coping strategy in place when it suddenly becomes unavailable. Create a list of viable back up options so if one option isn't realistic you will have others to turn to - now that's empowering! Maybe instead of taking that walk you can watch a funny video clip, roll out your yoga mat for a light stretching routine, or take 5 minutes to meditate. Perhaps instead of listening to the podcast you will tune in to talk radio or listen to a cd or favorite radio station.
Stress Less and Happy More!
Are you a busy man or woman who's ready to feel strong, live healthy, and get fit? Discover how to take small steps to get healthy & fit without cutting out the foods you love or spending countless hours on cardio. Come join me inside my online Facebook Community - The Healthy Habits Club. It's where busy folks go for tips, tools and support they need to eat healthy, move daily, and feel good for life!