In honor of National Stress Awareness Day, which falls on April 16th, Kensington Company & Affiliates would like to share a relevant article written by Donna S. Stein, LCSW, RYT, Psychotherapist.
Stress Management for Busy People
Stress itself is not bad; in fact it’s normal. Life is full of positive and negative stressors (events that exert physical or emotional pressure), and the good news is that our bodies are well equipped to handle it. In a perfect world, we deal with a short-term stressful event, it passes, and we return to business as usual. Unfortunately, for most of us that is simply not the case. Today’s stressors are often chronic rather than short term, direct and subtle, and subjective. Issues such as job insecurity, health, finances, childcare, eldercare, juggling the demands of work and family life, information overload and even our homeland security often have no clear conclusion or resolution. Concerns, worries, and fear lurk in people’s minds leaving people in a “wired and tired” state of overwhelmed bewilderment. “Stress is not just something in your head,” advises Harold Bloomfield, M.D., Ph.D., noted author, psychotherapist, and psychiatrist. “It brings about profound physiological responses that lead to disease and disorder.” In other words, today’s tension headache or insomnia can contribute to tomorrow’s major illness. It is an important preventive measure to heed our body’ signals early. We may not be able to change our world, however we can adjust or reaction to it, and potentially both lessen the harmful effects of stress and increase our sense of wellbeing now and down the road.
The following are simple lifestyle adjustments that may help your body-mind become more stress resilient, rebalance your overwhelmed nervous system allowing your battery to recharge and repair itself. Taking charge of the things that make you stressed is not always easy, but it is always productive and will yield enormous physical and emotional payoffs.
1) Get enough deep sleep- One of the most common symptoms of too much stress is poor quality sleep. Since sleep is a form of surrender, or letting go, it cannot be generated or forced. The last thing a stressed hyper aroused mind wants to do is let go. Many of the suggestions below will assist this process. Learn what helps your mind and body let go of the day and slip into necessary, health promoting, deeply restorative sleep.
2) Basic R and R- This is nature’s way of recharging our energy reserves. Without proper relaxation the body and mind become overworked and inefficient, good health and peace of mind suffer. Take a break from high-stimulation, plugged-in environments to do something that you enjoy…garden, read, be outdoors in nature, sing, play with your pet, get a massage, tap your creative juices, listen to soothing music, take a power nap or a warm bath.
3) Establish a regular exercise routine- This is without question the best stress reduction tool available, loaded with physical and emotional side benefits. It will help facilitate easier restorative sleep, reduce the buildup of muscle tension and stress hormones, and help maintain good health.
4) Eat a wholesome nutrient rich diet- What, where, and how you eat will all have an important bearing on the state of your mind and body. Be mindful of the effects of caffeine and sugar on your particular physiology. Focus on health maintenance, weight loss can come later.
5) Certain vitamins help lessen stress’s effects by helping the brain produce more of the “feel good” hormones. Nutrients and supplements also support a healthy lifestyle. You really don’t want to add a nutrient deficiency on top of an already overloaded stress response. Life is challenging enough.
6) Relaxation Techniques/Yoga Breathing/Meditation-These ancient mindfulness practices may seem esoteric, however they are simple, easy to learn, and can be incorporated into a modern and busy lifestyle with little effort or special equipment. Slow deep abdominal breathing interrupts the stress cycle and can help maintain a clear head that can more effectively problem solve and concentrate. These practices reliably increase the production of the calming hormones prolactin, melatonin, and serotonin, while decreasing stress hormone levels. Regular practice produces a wealth of positive results in mind, body, and spirit. Try taking a few long slow deep breaths followed by even longer, slower complete exhales next time you feel pressured. It works!
7) Social Support- Supportive close relationships can offer emotional buoyancy and a place to let off steam while reigning in negative thinking. If friends or family can’t offer the unconditional sounding board needed, consider seeing an empathic professional who can offer tremendous service if the burden feels too severe.
8)Cultivate A Positive Attitude/Spiritual Practice- Optimism and positive thinking are well worth cultivating even if you’re not the religious type. The ability to find positive meaning in the inevitable adversity may be one of the reasons why actively spiritually oriented people cope better with challenge, and why they more often describe themselves as happier than those who do not engage in spiritual practices. When we cultivate an attitude that is not driven by approval or results we are better able to move with equanimity through frustration, fear and emotional pain. We become more skillful at dealing with stressful situations, rather than our own emotional reactions to them.
9) Goal Setting- Beyond acquisition and achievements, materialism and consumption, explore and strengthen qualities that bring enduring happiness: Loving-kindness, courage, composure, tenacity, generosity, insight and humor. When we operate from a place that embraces these qualities we experience liberation from the limited world of desiring “things”.
The above suggestions are most beneficial when practiced regularly. They quickly become self-reinforcing as we feel better when we apply them in our lives. Their effects are cumulative and allow us to better cultivate the emotional resiliency necessary to more skillfully ride the waves of the inevitable stressful challenges we will face throughout life, allowing the possibility of experiencing more of the joy and happiness that is our birthright.