From a very young age we are taught about stress and stress management techniques. But let's be realistic. Contemporary human lives hardly allow time for the "breaks" we need to manage our stress properly. In countries like America, taking a break is equated to a "break in productivity" not a resting point for our hard working brains and bodies. That seems backwards to me. If taking a break and managing your stress was promoted in our workplaces and busy lives then don't you think people would in turn be more focused therefore turning out more productivity for our schools, our communities, our workplaces? I was a very intense student and I LOVED school. So intense, in fact, that it would make me sick sometimes both physically and mentally. That is when my Mom stepped in and developed "mental health days" as she would call them. A chance for me to stay home and recharge my battery. Man were they helpful and a secondary benefit was getting to spend time with her and sometimes my sister too. What is the point of my babble? The point my friends is that the first step in stress management is recognizing the benefits of it and making it a priority. This way when you are asked to do something that may just push you over your limit you can have the confidence to say NO and truly know that that one NO now means multiple yeses in the future.
Step two in my stress management plan would be to get getting your body to a good base level to handle stress. This means finding your optimal weight, developing an exercise routine, getting the proper nutrition and ensuring a good nights sleep. Now I understand that "optimal weight" probably made many of you sigh. Of course we all want to look our best but who has the time?! We all do. And this does not mean six pack abs and a killer hiney. It's about time we put aside our vanity and figure out what weight is prime for our structure and think about cardio, weight lifting, stretching etc. in terms of head, heart and bone health. If you can reteach your self to that about this way than exercising should be as natural as eating 3 (or more) meals a day. Not to go off on a tangent about this but if you have time to watch your favorite TV show then you have time for 20 minutes of exercise. It doesn't have to involve a gym either. Take your cell and go for a walk while catching up with a long distance friend. Ride your bike to the store to get those last minute dinner items. Do some laps in the pool. Okay I think you get the point.
Focusing on your nutrition (or body fuel as I like to call it) means getting as many whole foods as possible and eliminating processed foods and refined sugars. This ensures that the vitamins and minerals are present for your body to utilize. While I do believe in "everything in moderation" there is a line. Processed foods even in moderation are still processed and therefore lack nutrient value and add to your bodies stress level. My best advice is keep it simple. Stick to good quality lean meats and fresh produce. Add in some whole grains and LOTS of spices. Pre-pare or put together as many meals as you can so you don't find yourself in a "my stomach is eating itself so give me anything" situation. Change your mindset about food by asking every time you eat something...What is this doing for my body? How am I helping my machine run? Not how many calories or fat or sugar. Make your treats really worth it and pick the better option. Chocolate is a good example. If its a choice between real dark chocolate and milk chocolate go for the dark and if you find it too bitter get one that has dried fruit in it.
SLEEP! This is where I need to take my own advice. That's because I really don't care for sleep. As a child I was up with the sunrise and had a hard time falling asleep. I dread sleep. It's so boring. But recently through my research I am learning how absolutely key sleep is to keeping the machine running at optimal performance. Lack of sleep can lead to memory loss, depression, hormonal imbalance, slow healing and sickness recovery, body inflammation, high blood pressure, weight gain, I could go on and on. It is recommended that we get at least 7 hours a night to achieve results.
Mindset, exercise, nutrition and sleep! Put these things first on your priority list and you are setting yourself for success in handling stress.