Every Time I’ve asked a new client for personal training where their stress is on a scale of 1–10 it’s always right up at an 8–9. “Where would you like it to be?” is always my follow up and the inevitable answer is around a 2 or 3.
People tend to be aware that they can never fully eliminate stress, as I’m sure you have, but like others, you may have no idea how to manage it. I’m sure you know your stress needs to be decreased but how do you go about doing that?
Stress really is the silent killer. A little bit of stress is good for you but chronic long term stress is destroying your health and wellness. The problem is your body doesn’t know the difference between real stress, such as jumping out of the way of a speeding car and perceived stress such as worrying about finances or bills.
All your body knows is stress is happening and stress hormones such as cortisol are released. Again, a little is ok but over the long term, you’re not going to like what it can add up to. Here are just a FEW of the conditions related to stress:
This list goes a lot longer but I think you’re getting the idea. So now knowing that your body reacts to stress the same way whether it’s trying to survive a famine or you missed Game Of Thrones last night and feel out of the loop, how do you manage it?
Here are 3 ways
Sleep is when you become able to burn off these stress hormones. If you are facing a lot of stress and are depriving yourself of sleep this is like throwing gas on a fire. The same mechanism kicks in as your body thinks some traumatic event must be going on that it’s preventing you from sleeping and it doubles its efforts with the stress hormones.
Aim for the usual 7–8 hours a night but feel free to get some more if you’re feeling really run down or sick. This is when you need to heal and repair.
To get better sleep try to have the same wind-down process each night so your body recognizes the transition to sleep. Keep your room as dark as possible and a little on the cool side. Try to cut out caffeine after 2 pm as caffeine can have an extended life of at least 6–8 hours. And lastly, try to cut out electronics and screens at least an hour or two before sleep. The blue light screens emit can disrupt your natural melatonin levels leading to inferior sleep.
Many of us are shallow breathers and you might be guilty of this too. Deep breathing where you really extend the belly and diaphragm is key in creating better blood flow, reduces stress and even lower blood pressure. When you’re feeling a lot of stress take a minute or two to breathe in through the nose for a count of four, hold it for a second or two and then slowly breathe out for another count of four. Repeat this at least 4–5 times to help yourself manage that stress.
I could go on about the benefits of exercise for a multitude of reasons but let’s look at how you have another built in stress management system right in your own body through exercise. Whereas stress creates stress hormones in the body exercise creates mood-enhancing chemicals. You’ve heard of the runner’s high as your body is switching into feel good mode as opposed to breaking down mode.
If you haven’t been exercising the good news is you don’t have to start training for a marathon as the benefits of exercise as it relates to managing your stress are pretty doable. The sweet spot for exercise tends to be around 150 minutes a week. This can be incorporated different ways but if you aim for 30 minutes a day you’re on your way to better stress management.
This can be as simple as walking or hiking for that 30 minutes a day. If this is new to you starting slow is in your best interests, there will be more time to get specific with things later. For now, just get yourself moving and try to build up a bit of a sweat. If you’ve been exercising for awhile this is a good time to switch things up. Remember, the best workout to do is the one you’ve never done yet.
The first step in managing your stress is to recognize you’ll never be totally rid of it, the name of the game is management. Many people look for overly complicated ways to try and control their stress but don’t forget to start with the basics as I’ve listed here in these three steps. They are available to you anytime, they are free and effective.
Start to build up these better habits and slowly you’ll find yourself more in control of managing your stress as opposed to it managing you. So now when you miss Game Of Thrones it will only be a MINOR catastrophe…
Originally published at medium.com