Don’t you love that new 21 Pilots song – Stressed Out? It’s so catchy, but unfortunately for many of us, it rings true. For us, we are 2 working parents with 2 kids under the age of 2, managing our daily activities. That includes our day jobs, side gigs (#focusedonfit, #rescuethemes, #beautycounter), finding time to workout, time for each other, time for our kids, and time for ourselves! Whew! Just listing it all out is stressing me out. Layer on a very stressful election season, the upcoming holiday season, and we are searching for better stress management techniques. Working out, yoga, stretching, meditating, sitting in a hot tub, sipping on a glass of wine, reading a good book, spending time with friends – these are all techniques that we employ, but sometimes we can’t even find the time for these relaxing activities. What works best for you?
What is Stress?
First and foremost, stress is normal. It is our body’s natural response to outside stimuli, and on the most basic physiological level, it is our flight-or-fight response. Of course, there are all types of stress. Some stress or anxiety is actually good for us, makes us more productive, better, even protects us. However, this stress is naturally supposed to turn off and return to normal, like an alarm clock turning off. With the activities of the modern life, many of us never return to normal, and function in a state of constant stress.
The Impact of Stress
When your body is always on high alert, that stress can manifest in a number of of different. Immediately, this can manifest as a rapid heart rate, a headache, tight back/shoulders, rapid breathing, sweating, and even an upset stomach, including nausea or diarrhea. The long term effects of stress are far reaching and can be systemic. Stress can affect your immune system, and leave you more prone to illnesses. There has been a clear link to heart disease, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and even a propensity for developing blood clots. For me, stress shows up in my upper back, shoulders and neck, as those muscles are always tight. Many demonstrate stress in the GI system, with the development of reflux, ulcers or even irritable bowel syndrome. If you are of child-bearing age, watch out, because it has been known that stress can cause hormone disruption, leading to infertility. And finally, stress is always linked to skin issues, starting with acne in your teenage years, excema, and even psoriasis.
Healthy Stress Management Techniques
We all manage stress in a variety of ways, some of those techniques are healthier than others. Of course, we all could end our day with a few drinks at the bar, or even binge eat our favorite foods. We would feel good for a few hours, but in the end, these stress management techniques will end in regret, and may even cause more physical problems for us in the long run (alcoholism, weight gain, etc.).
- First and foremost, we need to know and identify are our stressors. What is causing the stress in our lives and how can we reduce or remove those stressors everyday? Starting a stress journal may help identify the root cause of our stress by simply recording our daily stressors.
- Remove unhealthy coping mechanisms. Are you drinking too much, sleeping too much, eating too much, procrastinating, staying too busy to avoid your problems? All of these are unhealthy coping mechanisms and can lead to increased stress when you don’t address the root cause and choose healthier stress management options.
- Exercise or physical activity. Sometime simply moving or going for a walk with the dog can do wonders for your stress. Clearly, exercise, such as running, weight training, yoga, pilates, tai chi, and martial arts are fantastic for stress management. Just get out there and move!
- Don’t do it alone. Connecting with your friends or family is one of the quickest ways to relieve stress. Simply talking on the phone with a loved one usually brings a smile to my face. Even better, grab a cup of coffee, lunch or meet up a friend for a walk. A network of close friends helps all of us to better cope with stress.
- Find time for rest and relaxation. We all need ways to recharge. Is it a good book? Playing with your dog? Taking a long bath? Watching a comedy? Taking a personal day? Spending time on yourself is just as important as spending time with friends. But find time for it. Don’t overlook the investment in yourself.
- Adapt a healthy lifestyle. This is a no-brainer. Choosing healthier foods will help you adapt to stress even better. Especially when you reduce the caffeine and sugar in your diet. Those ups and downs can take a toll on your body and decreases your body’s ability to adapt to high stressors. Avoid alcohol, drugs and cigarettes as stress management, and most importantly, get enough sleep. Sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to manage stress.
We would love to hear how all of you manage stress in your lives? Is there a technique that you employ that we haven’t thought about? Please comment below. And if you are committed to healthy lifestyle, sign up with us – we will help you manage stress even better by choosing nutritious food and exercising regularly!