Why we need to Stop Seeing Stress as the Enemy
In today’s high demand world, stress is almost inevitable. We encounter stressors at home, at work, in the news, and in almost every facet of everyday life. And this stress is not without consequences. More and more research is showing that stress is one of the main underlying factors in several diseases and deficiencies as well as digestive issues, weight problems, and even allergies. Stress has become vilified, and we are cautioned to avoid it at all costs by doctors, coaches, friends, and family.
The first time I was told to “reduce” the amount of stress in my life, I embraced the challenge as an attainable goal picturing sunset walks and morning meditation sessions. Then, reality hit and I realized that “reducing” stress is a lot easier said than done. Instead of decreasing the amount of stress, I only transferred it- and in some cases made it worse. Case in point, work. After identifying work as a stressor, I began to cut back-subsequently decreasing my paycheck while increasing my stress over finances. Trying to reduce my stress was stressing me out more than ever before.
What I, and thousands of other individuals, failed to realize is that stress is not the enemy. In fact, stress is often necessary for productivity and survival. The problem arises not with the amount of stress we have, but with our failure to MANAGE it in a healthy and productive way. Our perceptions and coping mechanisms have been recognized by many researchers as the REAL determinate of the negative effects of stress. Learning to manage stress in a healthy way is, therefore one of the most important things we can do to maintain wellness.
Here are five things you can do to manage your stress:
Change your mindset.
Often, stress arises from the emotions and meaning we attach to an event or outcome. Mastering our emotional response to these things is key to the healthy management of stress. You choose how you want to feel about, and react to, any situation.
Nourish your mind, body, and soul. Choose nutrient dense and minimally processed foods and drink plenty of water. Exercise. Learn, read, and stay inspired by exposing yourself to a variety of resources and empowering experiences. Take time for yourself in nature and spend times doing what you love with those you love. Remind yourself of what you are grateful for in this life.
Learn to relax.
Calm your nervous system, which is most likely in high gear. Practice meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and/or Tai chi. Spend some time at the spa or getting a massage. Listen to relaxing music and use peaceful imagery. Find what relaxes you, it is not the same for everyone.
Get some sleep.
Not only is sleep essential for proper brain functioning, but it is one of the best ways to “reset” the nervous system. Make your bedroom a peaceful place in which you are able to get quality sleep on a regular basis. Having trouble sleeping? Kick the electronics out of the bedroom and avoid any stimulating activities, foods, or beverages within 1 hour of going to bed. Many things affect your sleep quality, so be prepared to adjust the lighting, temperature, and furniture positioning.
Get it out.
Sometimes we just need to vent. Write about it, talk about it, paint a picture or write a song. Talking to a friend or loved one not only reinforces social connection, but also helps us to work through our stressors with someone we trust.
Remember, you have the power to choose the way you think. It’s time to stop seeing stress as an enemy. Choose to change your mind about stress and you will then change the way your body reacts to it.
Find a great talk on how to make stress your “friend” instead of your enemy here: http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en
– Coach Karina