Tips for Stress Management :D
Whether it's the holiday season or not stress rules our lives. The more we try to run or hide from it the bigger it becomes. Stress, like anxiety, is rooted in a survival skill and, at its core, is meant to be a positive thing. The brain perceives stress and sends signals to the body that it is in danger. These signals are supposed to encourage us to move more quickly and make decisions more hastily (you know, like when a dire wolf or lion entered your cave and you wanted to live). However, when we're getting these signals while trying to make decisions about which couch to buy or what topic to write a blog post about, stress is no longer a survival skill and can become detrimental. Too much stress can cause health problems such as insomnia, poor eating habits, heart issues, and a decrease in social interactions. So how can you manage stress on a daily basis?
1. Checking in with your body regularly
Stress has physical responses- clenched jaw and hands, bouncing legs, muscle aches and spasms, and even holding your breath at times. Tending to your body at various times throughout the day can be helpful. Here are some ways you can do that:
This is one of my favorite techniques to use with myself and clients! It can be modified to fit time constraints. You can click here to check out a video of a more detailed scan. You can also use the directions below to do a quick check-in:
Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight
Bring your focus to the top of your head and notice if there is any tension. If so, take a deep breath and allow your head to relax.
Bring your focus to your jaw. Again, notice if there is any tension. If so, take a deep breath and allow your jaw to relax.
Continue to bring focus to specific body parts until you reach the soles of your feet.
Taking deep breaths
When I am feeling really stressed I notice I hold my breath at times, which leads to me clenching my teeth and having a sore jaw or headache. Setting a timer once an hour to pause and take deep breaths for one minute can be helpful. If you have an Apple Watch, it will remind you to take deep breaths throughout the day. Try to get into the habit of not ignoring that notification.
Moving your body
This will depend on the kind of space and freedom you have at work or school. If you're able to get up and walk around for a few minutes each hour do it. If there is space (and you feel comfortable) busting out some yoga moves here is a quick practice you can do. Here's one you can do right at your desk! If you're not able to walk around or do yoga, simply standing up for a minute and stretching every hour can do wonders. Our bodies weren't made to be stationary for as long as they are nowadays.
2. Nourishing your body
I know some people may roll their eyes at me as they read this section, but I promise you if you are not taking care of yourself stress management will be nearly impossible. Our bodies are smart and they know when they aren't getting what they need.
Making sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day is crucial! Having a bottle that holds at least 32 oz of water is helpful. Make goals for yourself! If you're just starting out, make it a goal to drink one bottle a day while you're at work or school. As you're able to complete that goal, move up to drinking two bottles a day.
If you're able to do so, eat a good breakfast at home before you leave your house. If you're not able to do so, make yourself a protein shake or smoothie to drink on your way or pack a breakfast to eat when you get to work. Don't skip out on your lunch break if possible! I have worked in environments where a lunch break was not guaranteed and even frowned upon to take. If you are in a situation like this it will be necessary to keep food with you that you're able to eat at your desk. I tended to keep Campbell's "Heat, Sip, and Go" soups that come in cup-like containers (they were easy to drink at my desk, running around the building like a madwoman, or during meetings), protein bars, bananas, applesauce pouches, and pre-bottled protein shakes. If you are in a situation like this, please sit down and eat an actual meal as soon as you are able to do so.
Lastly, make sure you are getting enough sleep at night! Every person is different in the amount of sleep they require to function at full capacity. Most people tend to believe they need less sleep than they actually do, so have an honest conversation with yourself about how you feel when you are performing at your best and how much sleep you really require.
A lot of stress comes from the feeling of overwhelm from all of the tasks you feel you have to complete through the day. Making a prioritized to-do list can help ease this anxiety. If you're a paper and pen kind of person find a cute template online you like. If you're more electronic-brained there are several options. There are so many to-do list apps such as Tasks, Reminders, good old Notes, and a ton more in the app store. Download a few and see which one you like best. Figure out which tasks have to get done today and which ones can wait until tomorrow. Then, figure out the order they need to be completed and add them to your list accordingly.
4. Finding an outlet
Lastly, finding an outlet at the end of the day for your stress is important. Maybe you call a friend or family member on your way home and vent about the annoying thing your coworker did or how incompetent you think your boss is. Maybe you get in your car and scream for a few minutes (I have been known to do this). Or my favorite, maybe you get in your car and blast loud screamo music like this (WARNING: language). Your outlet can also be something calmer like listening to upbeat music on your way home, taking a hot shower, or playing with your kids or pets. You do you, boo.
Ultimately, in order to manage stress, you have to increase your "Window of Tolerance." Every person has a window of tolerance and it is a threshold for how much stress you can handle before you explode. Doing the four things mentioned in this post on a regular basis will expand your window of tolerance over time. Stay tuned for a post dedicated solely to that.