Most of us deal with some level of stress every day. From work, family issues and health concerns to financial obligations, there are parts of everyday life that commonly contribute to people's heightened stress levels.
And when stress increases, you may find yourself (and your world) quickly teetering off its axis.
But left unchecked, that chronic stress can influence your healthy habits and ability to healthily cope, impacting your overall health.
Before you know it irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety and worry increase and you may find yourself struggling to find joy in life's simple pleasures.
Not to mention chronic stress has been shown to increase your risk of health conditions, including heart disease, anxiety disorders, and depression. Which is why reducing chronic stress as much as possible is key to supporting your overall health.
How do you manage stress? Do you reach for sweets? Drink? Shop? Become short tempered? Avoid healthy habits like sleep and exercise?
For many people, these behaviors are not uncommon. The challenge is these kinds of self-sabotaging behaviors often only lead to more stress! And what do we do with all that increased stress? Engage in more self-sabotaging behavior. It becomes a vicious cycle that's often hard to break.
The good news? Stress doesn't have to be a downward spiral. Fortunately there are ways you can reduce the impacts of stress each day and as a result, minimize the stress in your daily life.
Tip 1: Take A “Time-Out.”
Ever notice how immediate reaction to stressors and the impulsive actions that often follow? Maybe it's reaching for something sweet, opening a bottle of wine, or jumping online to fill your Amazon cart. In the moment maybe these behaviors offer some form of relief, but shortly thereafter you're left feeling worse than before... physically and mentally.
Next time you are faced with a stressor, pause before acting. By taking a moment to assess the situation, you're able to stop, think and determine the best approach for you, so you can make informed decisions rather than impulsive ones.
A great way to practice this is by pausing to take 5 deep breaths, slowing inhaling through the nose for a count of 5 and then slowly exhaling from the mouth for a count of 5. This slows the body's natural stress response, calms the nervous system and provides you with a quick "time-out" so you can think with greater clearly and act with awareness.
Tip 2: Get Active.
If you’re feeling stressed, moving your body can help reduce stress levels and improve your mood. And regular exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
A 6-week study of 185 university students found that participating in aerobic exercise just 2 days per week significantly reduced overall perceived stress and perceived stress due to uncertainty. Having a regular exercise routine also showed significant improvement in reported depression.
If you’re currently inactive, start with gentle movement activities such as walking or bodyweight exercises. Seek out activities you enjoy, such as dancing, biking or enrolling in a small group fitness class with a friend, as this will help increase your chances of sticking to a regular fitness routine over the long term. That way you'll reap the benefits today, and tomorrow!
Tip 3: Identify What IS In Your Control.
Often times stress is exacerbated by things we think should be in our control that are not. Things like traffic, other people's behaviors, and the weather for example are not something you can change. what you can change is how you prepare for it, respond to it, and engage with it.
In other words, you can choose to leave earlier to avoid rushing should traffic build or use your GPS to keep an eye on the routes you normally take so you can make adjustments if needed. You can choose not to engage with others bad behaviors or create healthier boundaries. And you can realize sometimes things just happen, as the Alanis Morissette song says...
"Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything's okay and everything's going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out
When you think everything's gone wrong
And everything blows up in your face"
Instead of focusing on the stressor, focus on choosing how you'll respond to it. Maybe despite your best efforts you find yourself stuck in traffic, can you listen to talk radio, a favorite podcast or audio book? What if you take a walk to think through the thoughts and feelings triggered instead of reaching for the chocolate and cookies? How about giving yourself the space to journal your thoughts and feelings instead of snapping at a friend or loved one?
Tip 4: Reframe Your Perspective.
A mindset reframe is a healthy coping strategy that allows you to change your perception in a more positive way. Choosing to see the good and positive aspects of a situation, rather than only the "bad." Think of it like seeing the sun through the clouds, you have something positive to focus on, which fosters feelings of hope and optimism and reminds you that nothing in life is permanent, good or bad. Everything is temporary, and this too will pass.
This simple mindset shift is like putting a coma at the end of your mind's thought, rather than a period or exclamation point. It allows room for what might also be true. Sure it might be raining now, and maybe that's a great opportunity to tackle something indoors! And now you don't have to water the plants, because Mother Nature is doing that for you.
Tip 5: Have A Healthy Coping Toolbox.
Having a healthy coping strategy is great, having more than one is even better. Maybe your preferred go-to when faced with stress is to exercise it out (my personal favorite) but there will be times when that's just not possible. And in those moments, you're going to need another viable option. This is why having more than one tool in your healthy coping toolbox is so important. It's like asking a wrench to do every single fix it job in your house, it's not possible!
Start brainstorming different practices you can use to reduce stress, such as:
Taking 5 deep breaths
Preparing a healthy meal
Practicing a hobby
Sniffing calming scents
Are you tired of starting over every Monday, hopping from diet to diet, wondering if you'll ever get it "right" so that you can lose the weight and become the best version of you? I’ve got you friend! Come join me inside my FREE women’s-only Facebook community: Eat Better with Coach Mindy. It's for busy women like you who are ready to lose weight, gain energy, get healthy and fit -- without restrictive diets or punishing food rules.