Stress is something that happens to us daily. There’s good stress. You know the type that makes you show up for a meeting on time and also enabled you to prepare the night before. There’s also not so good stress. The kind that wears at you and makes you want to run and hide (or eat chocolate, drink a beer, smoke a cigarette, etc… ) It’s the kind that may start out as good stress but then added to all the other little worries morphs into something that is not helpful.
There are a few things you can do when you start to feel this negative stress come on that may help you gain control and not run and hide. Some such as the first item may seem deceptively simple. We tend to take these for granted but often they are neglected resulting in a low threshold for negative stress and its effects.
1.Take a drink of water. Many of us stay dehydrated and when we are dehydrated it is more difficult to reduce stress hormones and that feeling of tension.
2. Take a breathing break. Concentrate on long slow exhales. When we are stressed we hyperventilate (longer inhales than exhales) which signals the body to go into “fight or flight”.
3.Eat well. Eat meals with a variety of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Attempt to eat something with protein and fiber at least every 4 hours while awake. This will keep blood sugar from dropping low enough to signal a stress response.
4. Walk or do some sort of exercise. Just 15-20 minutes a day will reduce stress hormones in the blood; 30-60 minutes will optimize this.
5. Shrink your to-do list and focus on only the top 3 tasks. If that’s too much, shrink it to the most important task you can do right now. Looking at 20 items can be overwhelming but when you are focusing on just the next step, you feel more in control.
6. Nurture close relationships. Contact someone positive whom you want to keep in your life. Soak in some of their positive energy to help give you more resilience.
7. Get enough sleep. Work on things that will help you get better sleep like cutting out caffeine after 5pm. Getting 4-8 hours of sleep a night enables your body to clean up toxins and excess chemicals like the stress hormone cortisol. Sleep helps to give you a “clean slate” for the next day.
*If still no relief, reach out to a support group or professional assistance through a counselor or other healthcare provider.