Written by LA Jamison
I was at a professional development course, when a nurse/trainer/life coach got up and talked about stress relief. I sat up and took notice because of the topic and because she was a great speaker. Even if you aren't dealing with a lot of stress in the moment, these tips are real good ones to keep handy! Having years of experience myself with therapy, workshops and retreats, I combined this with her tips to give you 8 ways you can eliminate stress today.
1) THINK POSITIVE AND TALK POSITIVE
Yeah, I know. This is something said a lot these days, often at inappropriate times. "Think positive" is often said as if Mary Poppins has floated into the room and attempted to force-feed you 'a spoonful of sugar'. People can feel overwhelmed with these kinds of words, and if you are depressed and have certain brain chemicals fighting against you, it can feel like abuse. Even so, attempting to re-frame and catch negative thoughts isn't a bad thing to do. You don't want to pile on yourself a sense of failure for not being more positive in difficult times. Regardless, to try engage in self-validation and good self-talk is not a worthless task. There're many ways to engage in positive self talk and you have to find what works for you. I will weave some ideas in this article but by no means does it mean this is full proof.
1) Think Positive and Talk Positive:
If I could leave with you anything on this topic, it is this: Your mind believes what you say about you more than it believes what others say about you. What are you saying to yourself? Ask yourself, would I say this to someone else I cared about? Speak back and counter those thoughts of "I am a loser" and say "no, I am not going to there". Think about your good qualities or as some people suggest flipping it to a question: "What if I am not a loser?" Questioning your thoughts somehow jars the mind to think of why dark thoughts aren't that true and gets you to focus on what you want in your life rather than self condemnation. It does work!
Your Behavior Follows Your Thoughts.
Thoughts float in and out of our mind likes clouds do through the sky. If a thought floats into your mind, that thought doesn't make it true or something we must latch onto. It's easy because it sounds like our own voice. But try to catch what you are saying to yourself in stressful moments--especially those thoughts on repeat. Note the common ones you hear and entertain. Then say "Party's Over!" and show those thoughts the door. Let those thoughts pass on like the rain clouds. To do that, you must not hold onto the negative thoughts as though they are true. Treat them as something a bully might say like "your mother wears army boots". It isn't true. If they are weighing you down, even if some part of them are true, there is some untruth to them. It could be in the hopeless presentation of them or the total self-defeating nature of what the words are wrapped in. And you can dismiss that with the real truth: there is always hope so long as "Today" is called Today!
Remind yourself of who you are when you are at best (nice, patient, energetic, creative, fit etc.) . A trick I use for this (because conscious affirmations don't work as well for me) is that I talk to myself on a recording as if I'm in one of my real good moments and what my positive self would say to my down self. Then, I play it back at night before falling asleep which greatly impacts the subconscious. The subconscious is harder to get a grip on. I find this works real well if you can get motivated enough to do it.
2) Start Your Day Off Right So You Don't Turn Ugly
A. If someone was to ask you what's wrong or bad about your life right now, could you ramble off a bigger list than what is right or good? Most of us would say yes because it is in our DNA as "survivors of the fittest" to focus on what is wrong, so we can fix it and live longer. So, you can pat yourself on the back that a part of you that is doing this because it wants to repair the trouble it is feeling. It's part of our DNA to look for problems because it helps us survive as a species! The problem becomes when we get weighed down and discouraged to a dysfunctional level. It is no good to shame this side of yourself but rather talk to this side of yourself in a comforting way. Even thank it for, again, trying to have your back and also remind it that you have a way that will help that will be even better.
B. Focus, even list, about what makes you happy and what you are grateful for. This helps increase healthy neurotransmitters in your brain! Even if you don't feel like it and you don't feel great doing it, it is scientifically proven that the act of doing it makes an impact.
C. Eat a good breakfast and eat every 3 hours to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. You don't have to be an all out diabetic to be effected by blood sugar fluctuations. Your diet will affect your mood.
A big key is to Eat Protein at every meal:
*Men-6- 8 palm sized servings daily
*Women-4-6 palm sized servings daily.
D. It's all in the H2O baby. Our body is 95% water and water helps dispel stress out of your system as well as keeps your skin healthy. Everyone should drink their body weight in water (ounces). A lot of people like coffee or soda in the morning but instead drink some water first. You don't have to eliminate that drink entirely but
Why? Who Cares? Give me Chocolate and Junk Food NOW!
Here's why: You can actually physically grow uglier and unhealthy beyond just how miserable you feel. Stress can make you look and feel like you have aged quicker! How so?????
Stress triggers a chemical called cortisol which kicks in as what I call "survivor juice", in lay men's terms. This survivor juice puts your body on a high state of alert like the alarms on a sinking ship. It gets's your body prepared to run, leap, fight etc. Cortisol calls on your essential nutrients like calcium, Vitamin A, D, good carbs, etc to keep the body in this heighten state of alert. "Junk Food" as most of us know are called "empty calories". What do you think the body will do if it can't find, for example, the calcium that cortisol demands from your handful of Cheetos? It goes to your bones and takes it from there instead. It will take the nutrients it needs from skin, muscles etc. if you aren't supplying them from healthy eating. This is why you can get injuries for what seems like no good reason--because nutrients have been taking from other body parts due to stress.
Our body craves energy and food when we are stressed but ask yourself when you had that last donut or junk food splurge, how did you feel after? Alert and ready to go? Probably not. Probably more like sluggish. We don't naturally tend to think of drinking water or eating healthy when we are stressed.
Solution: Prepare foods that you can take with you ahead of time so you aren't reaching for what is at the office or running to get junk food. Bring protein and good carbs with you like nuts and fruit or protein bars or shakes.
3) Follow The Light
I find for myself and people who struggle with depression, SAD in particular, lighting matters. There are even lights designed for those who struggle with SAD to mimic the effects that the sun would have. To the counter, bright fluorescent lights can add to my stress. My forehead and brow is furrowed and it changes the sense of mood in any room. If you have to work with them, you can get prescription lenses that dull or neutralize the effects. I tend to leave Christmas lights up way longer than most people because the lights in the winter lift my spirits!
4) Deep Breathing
*Deep breathing helps regulate your nervous system. The most effective pattern is to breathe in through nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, and exhale for a count of 4 out the mouth. Repeat the cycle three times. This is something you can do on a break, in a car, or when you wake up.
5) Old Habits Die-Hard For A Reason So Try This Habit!
Did you know your brain functions better when you stick to habits? This is why they are so hard to break whether they are good or bad habits. And one habit that increases your optimism and awareness is stretching and exercising. Those of us who struggle with the blues need to move according to research! Moving Matters for stress reduction---> moving increases circulation to the brain and vital organs. You often won't see the effect till after you have done it. It's as simple as finding 10 minutes of walking time, and it doesn't even have to be intense walking. Or find ways in your every day experience to add in more walking. Take the stairs rather than a elevator, take a longer route rather than every short cut you can to get back to your work station. If you are largely stuck in the house, do some periodic cleaning to get up and moving or walk in place listening to your favorite music. You will not only feel better, you will find yourself thinking better.
Get 7 to 8 hrs a day. If you can't sleep well at night, take naps throughout the day. Or message me via FB. I have a sure fire way to help people get sleep.
7) What To Do When the Stressor Won't Change--Simple As A,B,C
A. Sometimes situations don't go as planned, dreams break, expectations aren't met. Be ready to alter your expectations and attitudes. This will help you gain back a sense of control. Think about what your expectations were and surrender to the realization that the trigger of your stress might be around for a time. It happens to ll of us. Sometimes it may be your boss, a co-worker, or a new job assignment, or a family gathering. You might not be able to totally change the situation and you won't change the other person completely but you can change yourself and how you cope and approach the situation.
B. It may require some outside help to re-frame your problems. Sometimes we can't see the forest from the trees. You know the old saying, "two heads are better than one". This is because a different angle is often better than our own, especially under stress. Talk to people who encourage you and those who have your best interest at heart. When you are stressed, at times, you no longer can see the forest from the trees. Websites now offer counseling online. TalkSpace.com and 7 Cups (which offers some free counseling) are just two.
C. Look at the big picture of it all. Sometimes you need to fly over the situation in your mind like observer in a hot air balloon. How much does this matter? Is this temporary? What changed to make things stressful? Other times, the big picture can seem way too overwhelming. In that case, it's better to focus on one step, one door at a time. Focus on what is right in front of you rather than getting overwhelmed by too much. You do this by self-talk and repeating statements like "One Step At Time" to yourself when you feel or think anxious thoughts. Know what your next step is and remind yourself of it when tasks are looming too large. Perhaps get a song that references taking the small steps. Focus on the positive or on the future. If there isn't enough positive (don't just say there isn't, try to find positive points), focus on your future and that this is a speed bump, a rough spot on your way to where you are going. Be willing to compromise rather than being on defensive on everything. Don't bottle your feelings up. Find ways to express them in some form by talking with someone, and express yourself through one of these; exercise, prayer, or meditation.
8) Find Ways To Reward Yourself
No one knows what floats your boat better than you. Whether it is a particularly hard day or a small to big accomplishment you made, reward yourself with good and fun things that make you feel good and get your mind off your stressors. This will help you when you come back to any stressors later.
No one knows what floats your boat better than you. Whether you had a hard day or you made a small to big accomplishment, reward yourself with what makes you feel good and get your mind off your stresses. This will help you on the next leg of your life journey.