Did you know April is Stress Awareness month? Stress is seems like an aspect of adult life that just gets shrugged off. We all experience it, we all have our own ways of dealing with it. The problem is, some of these ways are more destructive than constructive.
Stress can result in many health annoyances: weight gain, sleep loss, decreased immunity, digestive issues, even injury in the physically active. We also know that it affects us emotionally and psychologically, and inhibits our ability to think clearly and handle issues effectively. Over time, all of this chronic stress does a lot more to us than we realise: it is a contributing factor – along with diet, genetics, sleep and physical activity – to many lifestyle-related diseases.
So what can you do to diminish stress in your life? What can you do to deal with stress better? Below are some tips I follow to limit stress in my life.
1. Eat real food: ideally, this real food would be primal-aligned, however eating any sort of unprocessed foods, at regular meal intervals is beneficial. This will give you the physical energy and perhaps, if you’re a fat-burner, the continued mental clarity required for that brain of yours to deal with everything.
Plus, it’s pretty much common knowledge that processed foods make us feel tired, make us feel rotten and contribute to brain fog – that feeling you get when you just feel like you’re brain isn’t working.
2. Stay away from energy drinks: I work with people that seem to rely on Red Bull and other energy drinks to give them the buzz they need to keep going. There are a multitude of problems with these drinks: they’re heavily processed, contain high sugar and caffeine content, and some even come with a health warning. They can affect your sleep, which we all know has serious repercussions on its own. A solution?
3. Drink water instead: While it may seem hard to believe, water is actually very energising – a hydrated cell is an energised cell! After a long run or a race, I can feel tired or sluggish. I used to attribute this to the run itself being physically demanding, but now I know that I was just dehydrated. One thing I ALWAYS make sure to do now after a long run or race is to rehydrate quickly and continue to drink water throughout the day. This keeps me feeling alert and energised all day long.
4. Keep moving: the right kind of exercise can be just what you need to clear your head. As Mark Sisson recommends, you should move slowly, often. This doesn’t mean to move at a snail’s pace; instead it translates into low intensity exercise, often. This could be an easy run, going for an easy bike ride, or even just going for a walk. Repeat this at least 3 times a week, and you have a nice stress release and your head will be a bit clearer. I know all my stressful thoughts seem more manageable after a run.
Avoid high intensity exercise during stressful times because this type of exercise can ironically be stressful on the body (very counterproductive), stimulating the release of cortisol, your stress hormone. Which is probably working in overdrive if you’re already stressed.
Interesting fact: I was introduced to Oscar Insurance recently and found out they actually pay their members to get more active with their incentive program. They give all their members a Misfit tracker; clients then sync up to the app with their own personal goals and can earn back cash rewards each month. They have more about their New York and New Jersey health insurance information on their site. If you’re a member you can earn rewards, get healthy and lower your stress all at the same time. Pretty great for you NY and NJ readers 😉
5. Turn off: from your laptop, the TV, your phone, tablet or any other electronic device. These can impact our circadian rhythm: our body’s natural ability to recognise sleep time and waking time, based on light and darkness in our environment. Too much artificial light means our body has a difficult time recognising when it’s time to be winding down and falling asleep.
To solve this issue, turn off your devices at least 30 minutes before bed time. Instead, read a book. Talk to someone. Do some stretches. Write in a journal.
Using lamps with low wattage light bulbs will also help your body to prepare for sleep time.
6. Sleep: this is paramount! Sleep is a deciding factor in our overall physical and mental health, as well as emotional wellbeing. It’s also something we take for granted far too much!
This is your brain’s time to reboot itself, your body’s time to recover and repair. If you’re not sleeping, these are not happening. And let’s face it, you’ll be cranky and dealing with stress will be even more difficult.
By turning off devices and settling into a sleep routine of quiet time, using low wattage lights (even candles), and possibly reading before lights out, this will aide in getting better quality sleep.
Eating a real food diet and avoiding sugary, caffeinated drinks also helps.
7. Get lost: this is a phrase my husband uses often when we’re away somewhere new “Let’s get lost.” Let’s go somewhere totally new to us, where our day-to-day life (and stresses) seem so far away. Our ski trip to Italy a few weeks ago was our way of getting lost after several intensely busy, and stressful months.
If money allows, go away to somewhere new that forces you out of your typical routine, which means that you’ll spend more time thinking about what to do, what to see, where to eat, how to get somewhere, rather than the things that make you stressed.
If money doesn’t allow, escape in different ways: a good book, a film, a walk or a hike somewhere new. Why not even a spa day or a massage?
8. Schedule in some ME time: yes, you read it. If you’re so stressed out and feel so pressed for time you have no time to yourself, book yourself in for some ME time, where you do the things you want to do, the things that your stress has been preventing you from doing. You are the most important person in your life, and you need to take care of yourself, and your needs, even if it means scheduling that in. If you’ve got free time tomorrow night or Sunday morning, that’s your me time. Do what you want. It’s your time.
9. Stop making your own stress: most stress in our lives is self-inflicted. A harsh comment, but true. Too many commitments, too much drama, over active social lives, too much time on social media, too much exercise (too many races!), blogging, cleaning, living perfectly, work: all are sources of stress that we choose. No one forces us, we choose. Do we have to do them? Most of the time no.
So, learn to say no. Don’t overload your plate, or juggle many plates. You don’t have to do everything, all the time, never mind do it perfectly. Should you sign up for a course while working two jobs? Ideally no. Is marathon training a good idea during a stressful time at work? Probably not.
Are the things that are stressing you out even worth it? Most of them aren’t. Call it #firstworldproblems
I do acknowledge that sometimes, life throws us curveballs; sometimes many all at once. It’s at this point that we still need to decide, we still get to choose, to commit to the important tasks, jobs, deadlines, things, and to leave the not so important off to the side until we have time again.
And if you’re an Oscar insurance policy holder, the kind folks there aim to make your life easier too. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Above all, always remember:
This is how I deal with stress, these are what work for me. Sometimes, life gets tough, but I just keep going back to my stress relievers to make it all better again.
How do you deal with stress?