by Nancy Travers,LCSW
In today’s on-demand, ASAP world, it’s not surprising that the obligations and responsibilities, demands and pressures of everyday life overwhelm many people. It’s no wonder we are often depressed or stressed out. Stress can negatively affect our health. Many physical, emotional and mental problems are related to high stress levels. Fortunately with practice, stress can be managed and even conquered. Here are some of the best practices to implement for a less stressful life:
- Eat well-Breakfast does a body good. Never skip breakfast. Your body has been starving since yesterday and needs to recharge for the day ahead. By eating well-balanced, nutritious meals all day long, you’ll keep your energy level stocked and your mind sharp all day. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. This will give your body the nutrients it needs to work well and the energy to handle daily stress. Skipping meals and making poor food choices contribute to fatigue and can increase your propensity for disease.
- Reduce caffeine and sugar.Â Caffeine and sugar provide only temporary energy and often result, soon after, in a plummet. You’ll feel more relaxed and also sleep better by reducing both of these. A healthy diet is another practical way to help manage your stress. Here’s lies a dilemma: the more stressed you get, the more you crave junk food and caffeine-laden drinks. But the more of these types of foods in your system, the more stressed you feel.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.Â Alcohol and drugs may provide quick relief from stress, but the break is only temporary. Don’t avoid or cover up your problems; address them head on and with a clear mind so you can really solve them.
- Sleep-Your mind and body both need adequate sleep to manage stress. It relaxes your mind and body and is actually very healing. When we get busy, we cut our sleep time because it seems to be the least necessary action we perform. That’s a huge fallacy. Too little sleep amplifies problems and increases stress levels exponentially. Most people require at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep for peak functioning. Normal functions suffer when you don’t sleep well or adequately. Mental performance declines. Stress influences sleep and vice versa. Cortisol levels are increased in insomniacs, according to researchers. Prolonged high levels have been linked to many diseases including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
- Relax and recharge. Set aside time for daily rest and relaxation. Don’t waver or allow anything to intrude, even if it’s for only a few minutes.
- ExerciseÂ – Physical activity aids in preventing or reducing stress. Make exercise, at least three 30-minute sessions per week, your priority. Aerobic exercise can’t be beat for discharging stress and tension. When you exercise your body produces serotonin and/or norepinephrine, the feel-good chemicals and a hormone known as ANP, which reduces pain, provokes euphoria, and helps control the response to stress and anxiety. You get the benefit of stress relief and you also get the added bonus of increased muscle tone and better fitness.
- Although few things are better for dispelling stress than an energetic workout, exercise doesn’t have to be grueling to be effective. A brisk walk, swim or bike ride can work wonders. Even a short walk can elevate your mood and reduce stress levels by releasing feel-good endorphins.
- Accept and Adapt. Some stress is unavoidable. Many things in life can’t be prevented or changed. Serious personal issues, natural disaster, illness or death, and national or global concerns are examples. The best way to deal with these stresses is by accepting things as they are and by being flexible enough to adapt to changing situations.
- Adjust. Your outlook can affect your emotional and physical well-being. Whenever you have a negative self-thought, your body may react negatively. If you view yourself positively, you are more likely to feel good. Self-defeating thoughts often begin with the words “always,” “never,” “should,” and “must.” Try to avoid them.
- If you can’t remove the stress, remove yourself. Escape occasionally for some private time. Avoid stressful people and situations whenever possible.
So there you have it. The key to managing stress is making it intentional and not letting stress overwhelm your life. Protect your downtime, sleep, focus on your life outside of work, and eat your veggies!
Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 2212 Dupont Dr., Suite I, Irvine, Ca. 92612.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 orÂ contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.