The baby’s crying. The phone is ringing. You just lost your job. The check bounced. The babysitter quit. You’re stuck in traffic…again! Your daughter just told you that it’s her turn to bring snacks to soccer practice tomorrow and it’s already 9pm. You missed the deadline.
Everyone has it but how do you manage it without losing your mind? The Webster’s Dictionary defines stress as a state of mental tension and worry caused by the problems in your life. Actually, there are two types of stress; eustress and distress.
Eustress is a healthy, positive type of stress and tends to be short-term in length. This is the sort of stress that causes you to get out of bed in the morning to get ready for work. This same stress gets you up at 2 am to feed your baby and causes you to rush around to make it to the airport on time. This type of stress motivates us to do things that we feel capable of and often feels exciting.
Distress, on the other hand, is a negative type of stress that causes anxiety, tension, feels unpleasant, and can be long or short-term in length. It often makes us feel like we’re unable to cope with life. Chronic stress causes headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, weakens the immune system, and can cause diseases.
How to deal with stress.
This sounds like an obvious strategy, but identifying what is causing you anxiety and tension is the first step in coping. Monitor your thoughts and state of mind, even what you eat, during the day and keep a journal of how you feel. Being able to identify what your stressors are will enable you to make a plan to manage your stress. After reading the list below, choose which item, or items speak to you and make a commitment to take better care of yourself.
B-Complex – stress can deplete the body of B vitamins which are important for the health of the nervous system. B-vitamins help support the function of the neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly serotonin, a feel-good hormone. Follow dosing instructions and take at least three to four times a week.
Delegate – this is mostly for women. You know who you are… Times are changing but there are still many women who play the role of the pleaser, trying to do everything and make everyone happy, single-handedly. Trying to clean the whole house, do the laundry, cook dinner, and help little Johnny with his homework may make you look like Super Woman, but will make you feel like hell. Even if your significant other doesn’t do things the exact same way you would, doesn’t mean the tasks won’t get completed. Trying to do everything yourself accomplishes three things; (1) it increases your stress level; (2) it sends the message to others that you don’t trust them to share the workload; (3) you don’t respect yourself. In learning how to delegate, you make other people feel useful, set a good example for your children, and decrease your stress level at the same time. For those of you who feel the need to say Yes to everything, this is for you. Learning how to set boundaries can improve your self-esteem, teach others to respect you and take a few things off your plate. When the boss asks you – again – to work late, smile and say, “Gee, I really wish I could, but I made dinner plans.” Or, stall for time and say, “Let me check my calendar and I’ll let you know.” If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will either.
Diet Changes – making positive, healthy changes in your diet can make a world of difference. It’s difficult to fathom how what we eat can actually make us feel bad but it’s true. Cutting out unhealthy foods like junk food, fast food, sugary foods, and gluten will make you feel like a new person.
Exercise – there are so many benefits to exercise, books are written about it. So you may be thinking, “I don’t have time to exercise!” Even those of you with a packed schedule can make pockets of time for exercising. Park the car far away, and walk to work; take the steps instead of the elevator; walk during lunch time. Get a babysitter and go hiking or bike riding with friends. Join a Meetup group to exercise. Take a few deep breaths. This increases the oxygen to your blood and brain and helps energize you.
Kava kava – this is a shrub in the pepper family that grows in the South Pacific islands. It’s been used for thousands of years because it reduces anxiety, decreases insomnia, and promotes relaxation. Rumor has it that the natives using it have never had a war. It’s popular as a tea.
Massage – The benefits of massage are numerous, including pain reduction, stress reduction, and improved control of hypertension. If you feel that you can’t afford a massage, look for a massage school in your area. Students need someone to practice on and usually provide good massages at a reduced rate.
Music – Classical music has a beneficial effect on the mind and body and is often played in hospital intensive care units to relax patients.
Meditation – There are multiple benefits to meditating. Meditation calms the mind, reduces anxiety, decreases your stress level, lowers blood pressure, and improves the immune system. If you’ve never meditated before, getting all the noise out of your head may be a challenge initially. If this is the case, consider purchasing a book on how to meditate.
Prayer/Religion – As one of my friends recently stated, “I don’t have a religion, I have a relationship [with God].” Whether you believe in organized religion and attend church or have a relationship with God outside of church, Muhammad, or Buddha, having a spiritual connection to a higher source can improve your life.
Relationships – just talking with a close friend or family member can make a world of difference. As the old saying goes, “Get it off your chest.” Talking about what is bothering you, is a good form of therapy if you can’t afford a professional.
Scented Candles – Aromatherapy has an amazing effect on the mind and body. Certain smells can increase or decrease one’s stress level. Some people relate emotional experiences, positive and negative, to smell. Choose a scented candle or some other form of aromatherapy such as scented oils or incense, to have in your home. Nag Champa is a popular incense that many people find relaxing.
Sleep – Getting enough zzz’s has a dramatic effect on your health. The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is 7.5-9 hrs/night. This amount of sleep reduces stress, improves creativity and learning ability, increases attention span, improves memory, lowers inflammation, and promotes a healthier weight.
Vitamin C – When the body is stressed, it secretes excess levels of the hormone cortisol. Vitamin C helps to reduce stress because it helps clear cortisol out of the body. Eat an orange or other high vitamin C food to increase your level of this vitamin. If not able to do this, consider keeping a bottle of chewable vitamin C available.
Yoga – The benefits of yoga are many. Besides reducing stress and tension, it also reduces cortisol levels, lowers blood pressure, increases strength, balance and flexibility. Take a beginner’s class if you’re new to yoga and see how good you feel afterwards.
Last, but not least, remembering to take “me time” is important. Even if it’s just a hot bubble bath, taking time to unwind helps. Be good to yourself; if you don’t take care of you, you’re no good to anyone else!