Stress is a part of who we are. It’s inescapable; and while some stressors, like planning a wedding or preparing to have a baby, can be positive, many other forms of stress can have significant negative impacts on your health and well-being. But by managing it the right way, we can actually make ourselves more resilient. The universality of stress, along with creative ways to manage it, are illustrated in the film, “Stress Reset,” as part of TakeFive, a program of The TakeCare Campaign. This is a national initiative that offers tools to help people improve their own health and well-being through messages embedded in inspirational short films.
The film introduces us to a diverse group: a nurse, a construction worker, a barista, a delivery driver, a college student, a 3rd-grader, and a senior. They all tell us the frustrating sources of their stress and explain how they each manage to hit “reset” every day through calming activities like meditation or yoga, tai chi or dancing, as well as soccer and the expressive arts.
Each one shows the power they already have to manage their stress by using the helpful tools they have discovered to enhance that power to suit them.
We’re all facing chronic stressors, particularly these days. So, it’s more important than ever to discover the ideal activity to help you reset and create moments of calm for yourself every day. Effective stress management will also lead to more success with other health-supporting behaviors such as achieving restful sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and having positive relationships. Here are three tips we can all use to start creating calm today:
Find a Calming Activity
Stress is our body’s hard-wired response to a “threat,” and this response impacts every biological and physiological system in our body: our hormone levels, immune function, cardiovascular system, and brain function, to name a few. For a short period of time stress is not that harmful, but when stress becomes chronic it eventually takes a heavy toll. To manage chronic stress, we need to find ways to create calm every day – to lower our stress hormones, heart rate, and blood pressure, and to give our brains time to “decompress.”
Some people say that exercising or socializing with friends are their best ways to decompress, but while they are important to our health and well-being, they’re not necessarily the best ways to lower our stress. We still need to give our bodies and minds time to be calm and at peace. Incorporating relaxing activities into our daily lives is the most effective way. Activities like belly breathing, visual imagery, and meditation or yoga can be particularly effective ways to decompress as well as journaling or listening to relaxing music.
Reset Every Day
Once you find that calming activity, make sure it’s something that you can incorporate into your routine every day – even if only for 5 or 10 minutes. The benefit of practicing stress management is that it trains you to be able to recover more quickly and effectively from challenging events, making you more resilient. But it requires consistency. If you decide to start practicing yoga by taking an hour-long class that’s 20 minutes from home, you may find it challenging to sustain over time and to engage in daily. I’d encourage you to start small by finding something that may take a shorter amount of time, that can be done exactly where you are now, and that you can easily do on a daily basis.
Maybe you can start and end every day with a 5-minute meditation or schedule a 15-minute mindful walk during lunchtime. Make sure it’s simple enough that you can make it a part of your daily routine. That’s the only way you’ll be able to begin to maintain the benefits in the long run.
Make it a Priority
We often prioritize everything else in our lives before our own health and well-being. And stress management often falls to the bottom of the list. But it’s incredibly important that we all give our bodies and minds time to be calm every single day. When you do find an activity that helps you reset, make it as much a priority as eating or working. Try to incorporate it into your morning routine or evening routine. Add it to your calendar of things to do, like you would an important meeting. Take time to think about how you feel afterwards when you enhance this power you already have within you.
We all have 5-to-10 minutes to spare – no matter how busy we are. We just have to prioritize our well-being along with everything else. When you do that, you’ll be amazed at the ripple effect it will have in other areas of your life – including your productivity, energy level, and happiness.
Stress is a part of what it means to be human. We can’t avoid it. But by finding a daily activity to foster calm, we won’t feel like we’re drowning in our stress.
Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, is an advisor on the film, “Stress Reset,” as a part of The Healthy U.S. Collaborative’s TakeCare campaign. He is a professor and the director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the author of the book Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Heath with the Mix of Six.