I feel like it has become so normal and common to hear a family member, friend, or co-worker say “I’m stressed.”
We almost don’t blink an eye.
It is expected in many environments to have stress. We just “get through the day” with this toxic feeling looming over our bodies. However, what if this happens day after day, week after week? And we get caught in a cycle and don’t even know it?
Think of it as “situational stress.” We get so accustomed to it, don’t we? We tell ourselves: “If I just make it past a certain hurdle then I will feel better.”
“If I just if I just.”
This of course often never happens. There are always more hurdles.
If we look at the physiology of stress, it is a rush of negative cortisol and adrenaline flooding your body. We have good cortisol that wakes us up in the morning. This says “Get up out of bed, soldier.” But there is bad cortisol, too. This is often when simply too much cortisol is released.
This has the opposite affect of dopamine which can motivate us and make us feel happy.
Our ancestors needed this cortisol – which is a hormone – to be able to take action against a stressful and threatening situation. However, nowadays when people chronically feel the stress in their body, negative long-term effects can happen as a result. These include disease, stroke, weight gain, memory loss, diabetes or cancer.
Here are some of the warning signs to keep in mind if you are experiencing excessive stress:
Chronic poor sleep
Weight loss or weight gain
Depressive feelings such as worthlessness
Anger and irritability
Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
Inability to concentrate
Alcohol or drug use
Thus, it is so important to manage your stress daily. Here are 10 ways to do just that:
1. Look at your schedule and find balance
You can start with writing a schedule for your day! A lot of people do this in the morning. They write down 3 actions they have to do throughout the day, and then make sure to schedule it.
You can also think of at least 10 little things that bring you joy. These can be really small acts. One example is sipping coffee while you do a crossword puzzle for 10 minutes. You may like watching the sunrise or feeling fresh air on your face for a minute. Don’t forget to schedule in rest!
Try this: take a break every 25 minutes of work. And then after you do this 3 or 4 times, take a nice 30 minute nap. Your brain will love you for this!
Experiment with scheduling in these tiny moments of joy and these 4 minute breaks throughout your day. You may be surprised at how refreshing you feel afterwards. Plus, you’ll get a lot more work done.
2. Move your body
Exercise is one of the most essential ways to help cope with daily stress. Movement in your body helps to flush out stress hormones and release feel-good hormones such as endorphins and dopamine.
This doesn’t need to be a really intense workout to gain the benefits. A walk outside or yoga has a huge impact on the way you can deal with stress.
3. Eat well and limit alcohol and caffeine
You may feel better quitting caffeine and alcohol. However make sure to quit slowly and wean yourself off, if you decide to take your life in this direction.
There is a lot to be said for focusing on energy enriching foods such as greens, fruits, and protein. Drink plenty of water and be mindful by slowing down and enjoying each meal.
4. Check in with your support system
Sometimes it’s best to call a trusted friend or family member the next time you have stress. Or check in with yourself by journaling. It is amazing how helpful mind dumping in a journal can be to alleviate stress and worry. Just keep that pen moving for 3 pages can do wonders to start the day. This is called “The Morning Pages”, and you can find out more about it by reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”.
5. Find time for your interests
Sometimes when people are working really hard and trying to manage daily tasks they forget how wonderful it feels to engage in hobbies or enjoyable activities. Try gardening, reading, or knitting. Playing a guitar or piano! Anything that helps you slow down and refocus your mind can have really positive effects on stress.
6. Practice mindfulness activities
When we are in a stressful state our sympathetic system is working hard to protect us from danger. Again, this was helpful for our ancestors who were escaping real life-threatening harm like a rattlesnake on the path. However, we want to try to activate our parasympathetic system which helps us feel calm and able to use the part of our brain that control higher thinking and reasoning.
Try check out our bog on HRV breathing which talks about this: https://sunflowercounseling.com/heart-rate-variability-is-a-super-power-if-you-choose-to-use-it/
There are so many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life.
You can take a walk, practice yoga, use a visualization app. A great meditation app is “Waking Up” by Sam Harris.
7. Play with your pet or get one
Studies have shown that pets are very helpful in relieving stress and helping us calm down. Make sure it’s the right one for you that fits your lifestyle. Try going to an animal shelter and explore a few different pets who need a home.
In my family, growing up, there was a time when we were just hanging on. It was just one bad thing after another. So my parents got us a CAT. And it was the best thing ever.
8. Take a mini vacation
This doesn’t mean you actually have to go somewhere. If you can that is great, but there are different and easier ways to get the same results.
Simply sitting with your thoughts and meditating for an entire hour feels like a vacation.
Or, if this is to extreme for you, you can plan mini-vacations throughout your week.
Take a vacation from your electronics or phone. In our house we have a “reading room” where a NO ELECTRONICS ARE ALLOWED sign is posted outside the door. Just in case, you know. And no kidding, that one room has completely changed our lives. It’s like going back to the 80’s before cell phones! It’s a freaking time travel pod!
You may worry about emergencies or what to do if you need to be reached. Well, that’s just part of the excitement of having your own sanctuary. Your own sacred spot.
And reading can do wonders for your stress! There’s something about the eyes moving back and forth, and the smell of the pages of a book. Plus, you get to go to another place. Especially if you read for over 30 minutes!
9. Seek help from a professional counselor
One of the most effective ways to cope with daily stress is to seek professional help. A trained counselor has tools and perspective you may never have considered. And processing your problems together can have monumental results toward creating a more manageable life. Remember, you don’t have to wait until it gets way out of hand before you can make meaningful progress.