I once heard Kevin Michael Geary of RebootedBody.com compare modern society, from a hormonal standpoint, to being chased by a bear, constantly, every day. You’re dealing with traffic, with loaded schedules, a dreaded commute, bills to pay, family to care for and somehow, you’re supposed to take care of yourself too. Your flight-or-fight response flares up with each new incident that confronts you.
Learn to recognize signs of stress
First off, for the next 3-7 days, just take a few minutes to reflect at the end of each day.
Were you stressed today?
What triggered that stress?
Were you fine until a certain point in time during the day, or when you entered a certain location?
Is there a certain area of your life that stresses you out? Why?
Once you learn to recognize the signs of stress, you can formulate a plan on how to combat it.
Self-care is an amazing tool in your stress-busting arsenal.
Make a list of all the ways that you can make yourself feel better, calmer, less stressed.
For me that list is:
- A bubble bath
- A romance novel
- Time with the spouse
- Participating in my daily rituals (keeping the kitchen clean, doing laundry, busy work that keeps my hands moving)
- A long walk
- Writing in my journal
- Drinking lots of water and eating really good, nutritious food. Keeping your body fueled gives your brain fuel to deal with stress.
I’ve also written about this recently here.
Get Lots of Sleep
A full night’s rest of 7-8 hours of sleep helps your body to rest, reset and take on another day. If you aren’t getting a full night’s sleep, it increases your chances of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, the list literally goes on.
“As a nation we are not getting enough sleep,” – Wayne Giles, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Population Health
Caring for yourself and reducing stress means that sleep is vitally important to your health. If your reserves aren’t topped off every night, how are you supposed to combat stress the next day? Taking care of yourself means you have more to give to others.
Journal It Out
If you’re anything like me, the moment your head hits the pillow at night is when all the things you were stuffing down during the day come popping right back up again. Financial figures, recounting work stress, replaying moments throughout the day, all those things detract from a good night’s sleep, which can in turn make the next day even harder.
Consider adding in 10-20 minutes in front of your bedtime routine to set aside for spending time with your journal. Get all those thoughts out on paper and out of your head.
What are you worrying about?
What caused this worry?
What are 2-5 ways you can help resolve this worry tomorrow?
Make a plan with very small to-do steps and slowly tackle them over the next few days.
Formulate a plan
I like to call this the IFTT strategy. If this, then that.
The idea is to use the triggers you identified as a indicator of stress, and you have a plan to alleviate it.
This only works if you plan for things within your sphere of control.
- I am feeling my neck start to hurt because I’ve been so stressed while working that I’m getting tense, I stand up for at least a few minutes.
- If someone is getting snippy with me via email, I will take 4 deep breaths and walk away for a few minutes before responding.
- My husband is putting his dirty dish into the sink instead of the empty dishwasher, I will ask him to help me clean the kitchen before bed.
- If traffic has overwhelmed me, when I get home I am going to take a bubble bath.
- If my budget is super overwhelming to me right now, I am going to make a list of 5 budgeting areas and tackle them one at a time each night after work.
- My parents are coming by this weekend for brunch, so I know I’m going to be stressed that morning. I will clean x, y, z ahead of time, a little bit at a time, to make that morning as stress-free as possible.
The trick is to fine small things that either 1. immediately help the situation (#1 and #2) or 2. defers the stress to later in a constructive way (#3, #5 and #6) or 3. rewards the pleasure centers in your brain that allow feel-good hormones to come out and work their magic (#4).
Use the Vault
If something just isn’t going away and you’re trying to fall asleep or focus on an important meeting at work, use the Vault technique.
Picture the thing you’re worried about. Gather up all of the related worries.
Is there anything you can do about it right now, in this moment in time? No? It goes in the vault.
Picture a big, big bank vault from way back in the old days. Visualize stuffing your worries in, slamming the door shut and spinning the lock.
Tell yourself when it’s okay to open the vault again. Write it down as something to tackle during your journaling session tonight. Formulate a plan to reduce your worry.
I know, this sounds like a silly technique, but seriously, it’s surprising how well it works! Interested in learning more? Visit this guy here.
Endorphins make you happy
Part of dealing with stress is making time for you and your needs. That means making time for exercise.
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t. – Elle Woods
Want more info on exercise’s effect on stress? See a recap from the America Psychological Association here.