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Here are some tips on how to deal with emotional problems in a healthy way.
- Choose exercise instead of drinking alcohol. Exercise ramps up pleasure-producing endorphins and happy-time neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. You know my exercise passion is walking 10,000 steps a day, but swimming, jogging, kick boxing -- anything that washes away frustration and restores calmness -- works too.
- Benefit from the calming effects of meditation. Just 10 minutes a day can soothe frazzled nerves.
Stress can bring on bad behavior in anyone, so get over distress and destress. Exercise, meditate and... oh, did I mention have a one-on-one with your partner? Sex tones muscles, lowers blood pressure, and cranks out happy hormones.
The following may enhance your ability to manage stressful events in your life:
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet. General health and stress resistance can be enhanced by eating well and by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and junk food.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise promotes emotional well-being as well as physical fitness.
- Schedule your time more effectively using a calendar and to-do lists, prioritizing activities and realizing you can't do everything.
- Learn how to say no to requests that add extra burdens and can wreak havoc on your day.
- Insist on help with regular chores.
- Balance work and play by planning time for hobbies and recreation -- activities that relax your mind and temporarily take you away from your stresses. Even diversions like taking a warm shower, going to a movie or taking a walk can help.
- Practice relaxation exercises every day, including visualization, deep muscle relaxation, meditation and deep breathing.
- Rehearse for stressful events. Imagine yourself feeling calm and confident in an anticipated stressful situation. You will be able to relax more easily when the situation arises.
- Let yourself laugh and cry. Laughter makes your muscles go limp and releases tension, so try to keep a sense of humor. Tears can help cleanse the body of substances that accumulate under stress.
- Talk out troubles. It sometimes helps to talk with a friend, relative or spiritual leader. Another person can help you see a problem from a different point of view.
- Help others. Because we concentrate on ourselves when we're distressed, sometimes helping others is the perfect remedy for whatever is troubling us.
- Learn acceptance when a difficult problem is out of your control, which is better than worrying and getting nowhere.
- Develop and maintain a positive attitude. View changes as positive challenges, opportunities or blessings.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you must definitely have developed a pattern for coping with stress. Unfortunately, most people have found patterns and methods that ultimately do not support good health. These include negative coping patterns such as overeating, uncontrolled emotional outbursts, feelings of helplessness, having a cocktail or beer, or smoking a cigarette. It is important for you to identify any negative coping pattern and replace it with positive ways of coping.
We at the Hunger Free Forever program believe that effective stress management involves three equally important areas:
- Techniques to calm the mind and promote a positive mental attitude
- Following a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical exercise
- Supporting your body by eating a healthful diet and utilizing key dietary and botanical supplements.
Learning to calm the mind and body is extremely important in relieving stress. Among the easiest methods to learn are relaxation exercises. The goal of relaxation techniques is to produce a physiologic response known as a relaxation response -- a term coined by Harvard professor and cardiologist Herbert Benson in the early 1970s to describe a physiologic response that is just the opposite of the stress response. Although an individual may relax by simply sleeping, watching television, or reading a book, relaxation exercises are designed specifically to produce the relaxation response.
Stress is the body's way of fighting or fleeing its way out of a bad situation. Manage stress by going for a walk, exercising, laughing and avoiding negative people. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Randy P. Martin about stress and how to manage it.
It has been said that "there is no stress, only stressful thoughts!" Truth be told though, we have all experienced stress, so it is very real to us when it happens, and affects us mentally, emotionally, physically, and in our relationships!
There are many ways to manage stress. Here are a few quick tips:
- First, be aware that stress is happening! You must be mindful of yourself enough to know that you are experiencing stress within your body and life, and how you are experiencing it. Sometimes individuals develop coping mechanisms to numb out or tune out their stress such as through a work addiction, shopaholism, drinking alcohol, bingeing and purging food, over exercising etc... Ultimately, these behaviors just lead to more stress!
- Second, recognize that there is wisdom behind your experience! Stress is often a warning signal that something is off, and it is time to make a correction to get back in balance. Maybe you need to communicate more clearly about an important situation, set better boundaries, and make more "margins" in your life for rest and self-nurturing activities. Sometimes stress is warning of danger or a need to protect yourself from a vulnerable situation.
- Third, you need acknowledge what it is you need to correct, and correct it. Noticing what needs to be different is important, but acknowledging and taking action to create balance is crucial. So, in the words of the old Nike advertisement "Just Do It!" Take charge of your life and begin to break habits and routines that are producing stressful thoughts and experiences.
- Fourth, practice outsmarting stressful situations. We all know that there are certain things and people we cannot escape such as our bills, our bosses, our co-workers. It would be so easy sometimes if we could snap our fingers and make our stressful issues disappear, but that is not the reality! The reality is learning how to be happy and balanced in spite of stress! So, ask yourself if there is a time when you feel a little less stressed in spite of the situation at hand, and what is happening then? What are you doing? What helps? Sometimes a small difference makes a difference! Perhaps you need a little more sleep or "Me Time". Maybe you need to process your thoughts and feelings. Figure out the times when the stress is not so stressful to you. Remember the WOWW rule. Work on What Works! Figure out what works and do more of it!
There are various ways that stress can be managed effectively. In fact, there are probably as many ways as books that have been written on the subject. However there are some basic things that can help. The first thing is to recognize that when you get stressed you are not alone. We all get stressed at some point in time unless of course you are the Dalai Lama. How we choose to handle it depends on what is the most effective for the individual.
Some people turn to alcohol, risky behaviors (such as driving too fast) and drugs when they get stressed which ultimately backfire and create more stress. Healthy ways of managing stress include regular exercise, healthy eating, yoga, meditation, tai chi, talk therapy, and even laughing. The key is to find what works for you and make it part of your every day life.
It is impossible to remove all stress from the human experience. However, persons can vastly improve the quality of their lives by better knowing the triggers for their stress, identifying the common symptoms of their stress, improving the management of their stress, and enriching their self-care techniques, habits, and rituals when times get tough. The following are guiding principles in stress management and common strategies to overcoming the burden of stress in our lives:
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drug consumption
- Find support and a listening ear from a partner, family member, friend, counselor, doctor, or clergyperson
- Do not isolate; instead connect socially, schedule activities, spend time with friends and loved ones
- Make health a priority, eat a healthy and well-balanced diet and enjoy what you cook
- Take a break and treat yourself to a therapeutic massage and regularly and vigorously exercise
- Establish a routine with regular and vigorous exercise aimed at relief of mental and physical tension
- Stay physically active, volunteer, and give-give-give because smiles, humor and laughter are medicine
- Get plenty of sleep, a minimum of 6-8 hours each night, and take steps to reduce insomnia from stress
- Slow down and take a time out, find solitude to nurture yourself before reaching the breaking point to cultivate inner-strength, self-awareness and emotional healing
- Try not to worry, set limits and boundaries, do not overextend or make too many commitments, find balance in work or school, family and friends
- Get organized, make "to do" lists, focus on tasks one at a time, plan ahead and allow enough time to get things done
- Accept the things that cannot be changed and focus on breathing deeply and exhaling slowly and completely during tense moments, disappointments, or stressful situations
A healthy diet and physical activity will always be at the core of any stress management plan. In addition, you can manage stress with any technique that helps you relax, regroup, and redirect yourself in a positive way, mentally and physically. In general, effective “stress-busting” techniques often include:
- muscular relaxation (such as stretching, yoga or Pilates);
- a quiet environment (such as going for a walk, or listening to soft, soothing music);
- a passive attitude (easygoing and positive, not quick to anger);
- deep breathing, sometimes with the repetition of a word or phrase; and
- skills training to identify and reduce stress.
Of course, sometimes you may fall into a pattern of attempting to manage stress in unhealthy ways. These include overeating or under eating, smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, withdrawing from friends, or even using illicit drugs, to name a few. These behaviors are unhealthy and, more importantly, they do not ultimately help you manage stress. Rather, they may create more problems and challenges and continue the cycle of stress.
As you seek to control your stress response, it’s important to look at your “To Do” list to avoid becoming overly committed. Especially if you are balancing career, children, and other commitments, you should not feel guilty about prioritizing what is humanly possible.
Write down tasks that face you each day. As you schedule your day, budget ample time to get your work completed by calculating how long a project will take you, then add on an extra 15 to 30 minutes to allow yourself to go at a more moderate speed instead of always dashing in high gear. This will cut you some leeway, especially on those busy days when life’s stressors hold you back from optimum performance.
If you find that you have more tasks scheduled than time available, rewrite your list and prioritize the projects you must do, putting the lesser important projects or activities at the bottom of the list. These can always wait until another day, or you can delegate them to others. Sharing the load is crucial as you learn to balance your day, doing what your body will let you do without excessive stress or fatigue.
Take time weekly to evaluate your commitments and focus on those that are most important, saying “no” to the remaining tasks. Saying no, when appropriate, can bring your stress to a manageable level and give you some control over your life. Also, when you successfully follow through with your commitments, you can live without undue pressure and stress.
A very effective way to reduce stress is to take the mind’s attention away from its usual set of worries, plans, and reliving the past, and focus attention on something in the immediate moment. This practice is called mindfulness, and has been shown in many scientific studies to both reduce physical stress responses in the body and strengthen areas of the brain that can diminish the brain neural circuits of stress. Some people practice mindfulness with meditation practices, others with “active meditation” like yoga, and others by becoming fully absorbed in an experience, like appreciating a beautiful scene in nature or listening deeply to music. It’s what athletes call being “in the zone”. Find a way that you can teach your mind to spend more time in focused attention, and you’ll be treating yourself to stress reduction.
The same principles that control hunger and help you energize -- like eating breakfast -- will help you control your dopamine and serotonin. The following are the core principles of withstanding stress and energizing:
- Be sure to eat a blend of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein for breakfast. It's the most important meal and it drives your entire day. It determines how much you're going to eat at 4:00 pm, and it gets your brain to start with the proper levels of serotonin and dopamine. If you exercise in the morning, maybe have a pre-exercise meal, like half a banana or a string cheese. This will increase your metabolism, help with clear thinking, improve alertness and concentration, enhance memory, and improve cognitive abilities.
- Do not skip meals. Because stress affects your dopamine and serotonin levels, eating throughout the day keeps you alert and relaxed. Just remember to combine protein and carbs at each instance for best results.
- At every meal or snack, try to combine carbohydrates and proteins. The amounts don't matter so much as the simple act of consciously combining. This way, you get the optimal blend to fight cravings, control hunger, gain energy, simulate fullness, and produce dopamine and serotonin. This way you're less likely to eat emotionally. Protein increases your metabolism and carbs lower ghrelin (hunger hormone), which helps with brain function and decreases cravings.
- Take brief walks during the day. Even a five- to ten-minute walk works wonders. You can also pause and practice taking ten deep breaths.
- Take time to eat: Sit down, relax, and enjoy your meal. This time of relaxation helps to control stress and gives you enough time to send signals to your brain that you are full.
The best ways to manage stress in hard times are through self-care:
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may seem to be a temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run they can create more problems and add to your stress -- instead of take it away.
- Find support. Seek help from a partner, family member, friend, counselor, doctor, or clergy person. Having a sympathetic, listening ear and sharing about your problems and stress really can lighten the burden.
- Connect socially. After a stressful event, it is easy to isolate yourself. Make sure that you are spending time with loved ones. Consider planning fun activities with your partner, children, or friends.
- Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet; exercise regularly; get plenty of sleep; give yourself a break if you feel stressed out -- for example, treat yourself to a therapeutic massage; maintain a normal routine.
- Stay active. You can take your mind off your problems by giving -- helping a neighbor, volunteering in the community, even taking the dog on a long walk. These can be positive ways to channel your feelings.
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We all experience stress at one time or another. What can you do when the pressures of life become too much? Stress has a way of building up to the point that you feel overwhelmed. The trick to managing it is to have a game plan. Try these suggestions:
- Make a list of the stressful situations in your life. Put a checkmark next to the ones you can change. Cross out the ones you can't. This will help you focus on what you can do versus what you can't.
- Don't let stressful thoughts grow bigger than the situation warrants. Take a look at the situations on your list. Can you think differently about some of them so they feel less stressful?
- Pay attention to your stress levels during the day. Every hour or so, take a minute to breathe deeply and collect your thoughts.
- Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough rest. As hard as this seems, it will make you feel better.
Stress is unavoidable, but it doesn't have to get the best of you. In this video, psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein shares a simple approach to successfully managing stress.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.