Do you crave stress-free days? Do you wish you could better manage the stress in your life and not let it affect you negatively?
One of the many times I have felt this was when I was pregnant with my first child. I was in the middle of my residency training in internal medicine. I was sleep-deprived, overwhelmed and stressed out from trying to balance all the different roles (including mom-to-be, wife and doctor). I constantly worried about the future or things that happened in the past, while letting the present moment pass by.
With family, work, money and personal health being some of the things we rely on, it is no surprise that they are some of the top sources of stress in our lives.
Almost one third of adults in the US will experience anxiety over the course of their lifetime (NIMH).
That accounts for over 80 million people struggling with stress and worry.
In working with my patients to help them maintain or achieve wellbeing, lose weight, eat healthier, or successfully manage a chronic illness, I realized that how they cope with stress is something that I must address if I want to give us a chance at success.
According to a 2015 survey by the American Psychological Association, millennials are the most stressed out generation. They reported average stress of 6.0 (1 being the least stress, 10 being the most stress), compared to baby boomers, who reported 4.3 and matures, who reported 3.5.
Because stress is inevitably a part of our lives, the question becomes: how can we deal with it and use it as an opportunity to grow, instead of letting it bring us down?
I believe we can do this by letting our inner wisdom guide us. This, in my opinion, is that inner peace that we feel and that rational, thoughtful side of ourselves that we get in touch with when we are well rested, our life is balanced, and we are not dealing with any major, life-altering concerns.
This week I will be sharing 10 habits (5 today) to help you let that inner wisdom guide you to your best self – the positive thinking, yet realistic, calm, loving, compassionate, confident YOU.
- Be authentic.
Be authentic. Be who you are. Do not try to resist your emotions, or feel ashamed of them. Allow yourself to meet yourself where you are, and offer kindness and empathy to yourself.Acting honestly, from the core of your true being will help you achieve your goals. When I stopped being afraid of being authentic, job opportunities opened up for me that I never dreamt of, and I started to have more joy professionally and personally. When I started to show my enthusiasm for things that I used to be afraid of speaking about, and started to be honest about things that were not in alignment for me, my friendships and relationships deepened, and my work life brought me significantly more joy.
Digest your thoughts and emotions, and release the ones that do not serve you, through writing. It can be overwhelming to be in a negative thought pattern repeatedly. Believe me, I am an expert in overthinking, and specialize in thinking about worst case scenarios and playing them in my head. Journaling is one of the tools that helps me manage this.Reflect on daily life events and how your body and mind react to them. You can also take this reflection as an opportunity to learn from your experiences.
- Do one nice thing for yourself daily. This can be a short 10 minute commitment or an hour a day that you give yourself.Walking in nature, shutting down all your devices an hour before bed, a small treat (a handful of dark chocolate covered almonds, healthy cookie, a decaf cappuccino, a chamomile tea with honey), massage (or self-massage) yoga, or dancing are all examples of expressing kindness and gratitude to yourself. This brings me to my next point:
- Gratitude.You know when you lose something, like your iPhone, and for a second you think: “Oh no, my entire life is on there! What if I do not find it again? What if it did not all back up to the cloud? What if someone finds it and hacks into all of my personal stuff?” and then, a few minutes later, you find it. You feel immensely grateful, for about one second, for finding your phone. Then, if you are like me, you take it for granted again. Now imagine counting your blessings every morning upon waking up, before getting out of bed, or every evening when you get home. Just imagine, instead of ruminating on something that happened, the should have’s and the could have’s, you are focusing on the positive aspects of your life which may include: your family, your supportive friends, your job, a restful meditation practice, the sunshine, nature, your pet, or your cozy home.
- Sleep.Setting aside time for adequate sleep is essential for achieving and maintaining a healthy mind and body. Studies have shown that insomnia increases the risk of depression. On the contrary, adequate sleep improves memory and ability to learnand lowers levels of anxiety. Plus, sleep just feels amazing!Aim for sleeping 8 hours per night and keep your bedtime and wake up times as consistent as possible.
Closing in on these first five habits, I would love to leave you with one last thought.
I know how easy it is to fall back into our busy lives. For example, time is so often an issue, and that is why we do not incorporate self-care into our routine. In this case, try to hit two birds with one stone and make time for at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly as a self-care activity.
Another activity that is easy to incorporate is gratitude practice. Try a gratitude practice first thing in the morning, while brushing your teeth, or on your way to or from work.