Stress is a term the modern American is very familiar with.
The American Psychological Association reports that “most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress”, and it negatively affects almost half of the US population.
Chronic stress is associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, and depression. While we can’t (and actually don’t want to) avoid stress altogether, we need to have healthy coping skills for when it gets to be too much.
Have you ever gotten stressed out and headed to the bag of chips and eaten the whole thing without being aware?
I think most of us have. When our bodies become stressed, we produce hormones that put us into a state of fight or flight. When we had to run away from the tiger that wanted to eat us, this response was very useful. The cortisol levels raise which raise our blood sugar levels, making it easier for us to run away.
The problem is this same response occurs when your boss yells at you, but you CAN’T run away. We used to run away from the tiger and our body would recover from the stress response, in modern society we often find that we stay stressed, which is where the major harm occurs.
If you always have high cortisol and subsequently high blood sugar levels, you will end up in a state of inflammation and this state eventually damages the body.
I find that most of my clients with chronic stress struggle with weight problems, and from a physiological standpoint it makes perfect sense. When I have someone I’m working with who wants to lose weight, managing their stress levels is a huge part of setting them up to get the weight off and keep it off.
Here are 8 strategies for managing chronic stress:
Learn how to meditate, and do it daily
There are a TON of apps out there now that will help you establish and implement meditation. I really like HeadSpace and I have a lot of clients and colleagues who use this app.
Get enough sleep
This is in I think every one of my articles about anything, because of how critical it is. Getting enough sleep, and good sleep will make huge headway in managing stress. Here’s a great resource on how to implement effective sleep strategies.
Learn how to breath
The minute stress enters our lives most adults start taking shallow breaths from their chest. In fact, I have been blown away by how many adults CAN’T take belly breaths. Learning how to breath sets off a neurological storm of activity that turns off the fight or flight response and sends all the calming neurotransmitters cascading down. Follow this link to learn how to breathe. Or check out this new wearable to help you with breath awareness.
Take 5 minutes to just exist
Get away from all the screens, the people, the noise, and just sit, for 5 minutes. This is not the same as your meditation time. This is time for you to just BE. Set an alarm on your phone for 5 minutes and just be in the moment. Your brain NEEDS this. We are overwhelmed with life, we need to take a regular break from it.
Talk to someone
It doesn’t have to be a therapist or counselor. It could just be a friend. But share how you are feeling. Being able to verbalize the things that run rampant in your brain is a very effective technique to manage stress. The human connection is critical for our wellbeing, and talking to someone that values you creates that connection.
Writing down the things in your life that are causing you stress can help you to process them. Often, we will see the issues on paper and realize we made mountains out of molehills. It also will help you create solutions to manage the issues.
Kick the caffeine, or at least cut it down
Caffeine is an amazing drug, but it is, in fact, a drug, with very powerful effects on our brain and nervous system. Using caffeine in moderation can be very useful, but if you are managing stress caffeine will only exacerbate the problems.
Change your thought patterns
This could be a blog post in and of itself, but listen to what you say to yourself, and then challenge yourself to say it in a different, more proactive and beneficial way. If you’re constantly berating yourself and beating yourself up, you’re not helping anyone. Be realistic about your current life, then think about ways you can talk to yourself that improve the situation, not make it worse. Remember- you are what you say to yourself and what you believe. And your beliefs determine your life.
This list should get you started.For more information on any of the topics, simply Google the term or follow the links I’ve provided.
Managing stress levels is key for optimal wellness, and with some changes, it can be very doable.
Good luck and feel free to comment below!