Tips for Managing the Ugly “S” Word – Stress
by Silvia Navas
Stress is so much a part of our daily living, that often times we do not even realize how stressed we are until we start to notice some of its damaging effects. While a little of the stress producing hormones can be beneficial and at times necessary — say to meet a deadline or get out of harm’s way — people who don’t manage stress well can have headaches, stomach pain, sleeping problems, depression and open the door to all kinds of other illnesses.
Aside from the negative and obvious damaging physical effects long- term stress can cause, another factor to consider is how much living in stress robs us of the ability to enjoy our lives. The physical and mental distraction that stress creates takes us away from enjoying the positive things in our lives. But all is not lost; you can help manage stress in several different ways and have almost immediate results. Yes, that overwhelming feeling that you don’t have time for anything else, especially indulge in self-care, is a sure sign that you are under stress and must take time to recalibrate and nurture yourself.
Here are some of ways to get a grip on stress and most importantly, keep it under control:
Eat Nourishing Foods. Avoid reaching for traditional comfort foods when feeling stressed out; they will only make you feel worse after you eat them. How well your body will handle stress greatly depends on how well nourished it is. Take a stroll down the produce aisle and pick up leafy greens, mushrooms, bell peppers, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and colorful fruit rich in antioxidants! Make sure you also get some lean protein to sustain your body. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice or quinoa can help keep your blood sugar balanced. Of course, keeping properly hydrated is also equally important.
Supplement Your Diet. In addition to eating healing foods, there are supplements that can give your body a boost. B-Complex vitamins sound basic but are essential for helping your body deal with stress effectively and provide energy. Herbs such as holy basil and rhodiola help reduce stress hormones. Magnesium relaxes tense muscles and helps you sleep better.
Write It Out. Sometimes the things that worry us most seem bigger and more confusing inside our heads. Journaling is a great tool to empty your mind, get your thoughts organized, and gain some objectivity on whatever is causing worry or anxiety. You don’t have to be a “writer” to practice journaling; I find that even just making to-do lists can help. Or you can also write about something completely unrelated, like one of your most precious memories or life events! This helps to recall good things in life, putting you in a feel good state.
Exercise. Exercise decreases stress hormones such as cortisol and increases endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals, and when they are released through exercise, your mood is boosted naturally. In addition to endorphins, exercise also releases adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. These chemicals work together to make you feel good.
Think in Terms of “Now.” When we worry about what will happen or replay what has already happened, we lose sight of the only moment that is real in time, which is right now, and we miss out on quality moments with ourselves and loved ones. Ancient traditions really understand the importance of being and living in the now and how that affects our overall wellbeing. Think of what actions steps you can take now to reduce your stress and bring your attention to the things that are going well in your life.
Unplug, Breathe, Meditate. However you want to call it, what is important is that you take time to slow down and relax. It may seem challenging at first because there is always something to do, somewhere to be or another deadline to meet, but whatever you are trying to achieve will be done much more effectively if you take time to recharge.
Whatever stress management tool you end up using, just remember that the most important thing is to keep yourself happy and healthy so you can keep doing what you love!