Stress seems to continue to increase in our daily lives. “According to APA’s 2012 Stress in America survey, stress keeps more than 40 percent of adults lying awake at night” How Stress Affects Your Health, APA.org. Loss of sleep is just one effect of stress. Stress effects our mood, our relationships, and our ability to be present and enjoy our lives.
I have struggled with managing stress throughout my adult life. Only recently have I began to consistently put into practice strategies that help me keep my stress low and feel more calm on a daily basis. Below are my 10 favorite stress reducers.
- Power down. I keep my phone on silent about 95% of the time. This prevents text & email dings, alerts, and calls from constantly bombarding me. If this seems unreasonable try powering down after a certain time each evening or once a week for a whole day.
- Watch your news intake. News stories are sensationalized to grab our attention and often instill fear. If we chose to we could watch, listen to, or read a constant flow of intense and often frightening news stories from around the world. Our bodies react to fear with heightened blood pressure, heart rate and breathing pace. Be thoughtful about how much news you are in taking and why. Is there any benefit to you? Do you have it on in the background? Is there something else you could be reading, watching or listening to that might provide more benefit and less stress?
- Take a deep breath. Deep breathing is one of the fastest ways to slow our body and our mind down. Every morning before getting out of bed focus on your breathing for 1 to 5 minutes. Breathe in through your nose and say to yourself “breathe in.” Breathe out through your mouth and say “breathe out.”
- Do you ever look at children with envy thinking I wish anything could make me that happy much less bubbles? Maybe playing is more of an effort for adults but it’s an effort worth making. So smile, laugh, and have fun as often as possible.
- Get More Sleep. We as a society discount our need for sleep and its benefits. We seem to be proud of only needing 4 to 5 hours of sleep at night. I am sure you can function on only 5 hours of sleep but at what cost. If I have not convinced you check out 10 Surprising Effects of Lack of Sleep, WebMD.com. “While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best” How Much Sleep Do You Need? HelpGuide.org.
- Exercise. Don’t skip over this one. Yes we all know the need to be more physically active but often we do not follow through because we set crazy high expectations become overwhelmed and give up. Take a 10 minute walk. No excuses! It is only 10 minutes 3 to 5 days a week. You CAN DO IT!
- Get outside. Kill two birds with one stone. Take a 10 minute walk outside. Your body and mind will appreciate the fresh air and vitamin D.
- Be grateful. Each morning state three things for which you are grateful. If you think you will forget, put a daily reminder on your phone. Starting your day off with gratitude makes the little annoyances of life seem less significant and lets them roll off your back more easily.
- Brain dump. Before bed or anytime your mind is racing take out a notebook and write down all of your fears, concerns, and frustrations. Write until you have nothing left to say or your hand hurts. When our mind gets into hamster wheel mode our thoughts become obsessive and the problems we are thinking about often become magnified and out of proportion. Get these thoughts out of your mind and onto paper to give your mind a break and help you regain clarity.
- Motivate & educate with podcasts. Now that you are not listening to as much news try listening to a motivational or comedic podcast. I like The Chalene Show for motivation and inspiration. My husband likes the Adam Carolla Podcast for comic relief. How’s that for variety?
When I am less stressed I am a better wife, mother, therapist, daughter, etc. As the flight attendant says put your air mask on first by taking care of yourself. If this all sounds good in theory but feels like too much to follow through with start small. I certainly did not adopt all of these habits at once. I put them into practice slowly over the course of years. Choose one healthy habit above and begin practicing it regularly for about a month. Then choose a second from the list and add it to your routine.
Michelle Puster M.Ed. | Licensed Professional Counselor
Helping disconnected couples grow closer
Couples & Marriage Counseling Katy, TX