By Francine Schill
Believe it or not, you may think you know how to relax, but do you truly? I have found out that I didn’t.
We live in a world where stress is simply unavoidable. Mounting economic problems, waves of job losses, environmental concerns, national security fears, and health issues are among the major causes of stress; not to mention the day-to-day worries involved with managing a family, marriage, career, home and a million other details.
Is it any wonder that so many of us are suffering from anxiety, depression and physical ailments linked to stress such as heart disease, migraines and high blood pressure?
But despite the constant stress in our lives, it is possible to keep ourselves centered and positive. Managing our stress—or rather our own reactions to stress—requires a commitment to ourselves. By setting up coping strategies and implementing certain routines which diffuse stress, we will be able to live happier, healthier lives.
Here are seven ways that stress can be reduced, eliminated, and managed:
It is incredible how few people actually breathe correctly without making an effort to stop and do so. Yet this is the most fundamental action of our lives. We can go weeks without food, days without water—but less than a couple of minutes without oxygen. You can literally feel yourself relax after taking a series of deep, regulated breaths. So commit to taking “breath breaks” throughout the day and watch how much better you feel. This simple, free exercise can literally change your life if you do it regularly.
Recent scientific studies have concluded that we are sleep deprived. You think? Glad they just figured this out. With so many responsibilities inside and outside of our homes, we often sacrifice sleep just so that we can meet our commitments. But burning the candle at both ends is a bad idea. After a while the lack of quality sleep will catch up with you. The reality is that there will always be something else that needs to get done. You have to be willing to draw the line for yourself, let some things slide (or at least wait) and go to bed at a decent hour. Adults need eight hours of sleep each night to be refreshed and to help them function at their optimum mentally and physically. I’m still working on this one.
- Eat Right
Proper nutrition is essential for sustaining your energy levels and protecting you from susceptibility to illnesses. This might mean taking the time to shop and prepare healthy foods that you can easily grab when you’re drop dead tired after work; or when you want a quick snack. It may also mean taking supplements and cutting down on things like alcohol or caffeine which can have a negative impact on your physical (or mental) health.
- Talk It Out
Whether you talk to your spouse, mother, best friend, partner, or a professional counselor—you need to be able to get it out there. Keeping your fears and worries pent up inside will exacerbate your stress level to the point that it becomes unbearable. When you talk to a trusted person, you’re not necessarily looking for answers. Just the act of speaking your fears and letting them see the light of day can help you manage them more effectively. So remember to use your support network of friends and family!
- Know When to Say No.
Lots of us have trouble with this one. We want to be part of a team, and we want to help people—including our own families. But we have limits to what we can do; and unless we’re willing to make those limits known, we can literally find ourselves depleted by all the demands on our time and energy. Saying no doesn’t mean we don’t care. It just means we understand that we can’t do everything ourselves. I learned this one a while ago and once you get the hang of it, you will feel so empowered.
The link between body and mind is so closely related that you cannot ignore one and expect the other to remain healthy. Our minds are so preoccupied with stress that we begin to physically manifest the negativity were feeling. Exercise allows our bodies to dissipate the stress and helps us get the most out of our sleep. It helps us metabolize our food, increases our breathing capacity, and helps us feel more confident. In fact, exercise is good for helping to support every other item on this list. Making a commitment to exercise regularly isn’t just about looking good in a pair of jeans. It’s about having a body and mind that are able to support you as you take on life’s challenges. I am guilty of sneaking this one in while on conference calls. I find that I can have a great conference call with my clients on the treadmill and they are none the wiser. I get my exercise while doing work! Hopefully none of them are reading this.
- The Beach
The beach is one of the most relaxing places I know. I am happiest when I am at the beach, the stress just melts away! You can walk it, bike it, swim it or just plain people watch, it’s all fun!
We have an extraordinary ability to take care of many things at one time. We are phenomenal multi-taskers. But so many of us forget to take care of ourselves along with everyone else. These are not difficult, expensive, or complicated methods of reducing stress, but they are necessary for anyone who wants to continue living a healthy, happy and productive life during these increasingly stressful times.
So remember, it’s ok to say no to that commitment and go to the beach and walk, read that book, do something you enjoy and don’t let that guilt creep in. It’s ok to have fun, it’s ok to do for yourself.