The month of April marks National Stress Awareness Month. In this day and age, stress seems to be everywhere. However, what we may not know is how it can influence our lives both short and long term.
Did you know that we need stress? It's our body's natural reaction to take on big challenges in life.
For example, stress is a vital warning system that floods our bodies with chemicals to get us ready to protect ourselves physically, like jump away from a moving car. Or like our paleolithic ancestors, run away from a hungry predator. It can also help us meet our daily challenges and motivate us to reach our goals.
BUT, when you are finding yourself in a consistent state of stress, that's when it can wreak havoc on us long term and can affect our mental and physical health.
If you are feeling like the bad stress has got you in it's grasp, be sure to check out this list of five effective ways you can tackle it. Pick just one or two and devote to consistently practicing them this month!
1. Stop Shoulding on Yourself--The dialogue we use with ourselves on a daily basis can make or break the amount of mental stress we create for ourselves. "I should exercise more, I should eat healthier, I should fold the laundry, I should spend more quality time with my kids..." Are you a "should-er?" Check out my blog on ways to Stop Shoulding on Yourself and turn your "shoulds" into doable actions.
2. Exercise--I've never met anyone that said "I really regret working out today." In fact, it's the exact opposite! Exercise is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to managing stress. It boosts your mood and makes you feel good, and focusing on your body's movements helps you take your mind off of the day's irritations. These things, plus the other great health benefits of exercise can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of control over your body and life. Not exercising currently? No problem! Start with something you enjoy and know that you can do. The choose an amount of time that's doable for you to do a few times per week, then progress from there. Something is better than nothing!
3. Own Your Time--Do you feel like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done? Sometimes we don't realize or take advantage of the spaces of time that we do have. Time Blocking is a great tool to use to show how much time we actually do have available to us throughout the week. After knowing what you have available, block off one of those free spaces and reserve it just for YOU! Add it to your schedule and don't miss it. Spend that time doing something you enjoy, reading, doing a puzzle, exercising, knitting, etc.
4. Practice Breathing Exercises--Take a few moments each day to focus just on your breathing. Especially during stressful situations, we can find ourselves breathing shallow, not allowing our lungs to fully inflate or deflate. Taking deep breaths fills your body with oxygen, releases tension and can help normalize your heart rate. The cool thing about this is you don't need to spend a lot of time practicing them to feel the benefits, most exercises just take a couple minutes. Check out these breathing exercises for some ideas.
5. Eat Well--Regularly eating a well-balanced diet allows you to feel better in general. Like a well-oiled machine, your body runs better when it's burning good fuel. If you skip meals, lack balance in nutrients, or eat highly processed foods the chemical balance in our body can shift, which can lead to low energy levels, a bad mood, and can ultimately increase your stress.
What methods do you use to control your stress?