5 Tools to Help Deal with Stress
When overwhelmed, turn to this toolbox
Stress. It comes at us from all directions and in so many forms. We all encounter it, often multiple times during each day.
Are you caught in a traffic jam or running hard in a race? That’s acute stress. When that moment is over, your system resets to normal. Our bodies are ready to handle it.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by thousands of emails in your inbox? Comparing your life to what you see on social media? That anxiety you feel could be up front and center or an underlying current that keeps running strong. That’s chronic stress and it causes inflammation throughout the body which leads to bigger problems.
In our modern world we are riddled with chronic stress and not many of us know how to identify or manage it.
Whether you’re dealing with a heavy burden or something smaller and more manageable, it’s important to realize that not a single one of us is perfect, balanced or consistent in how we may react. There’s nothing wrong with how you feel as you face stress or how long it takes you to manage it – and no one has the right to judge you. ESPECIALLY YOU. Just because you’ve handled massive hardships in the past doesn’t mean you’re a lesser person or weak because you find yourself reeling from the sucker punch. Life is dynamic. It’s messy. And it can be a complete and utter jerk. Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. We’re all just trying to make our way.
The next time you feel anxiety coming on take a mental note of the feeling - tight in the chest, panicky, shortness of breath, sweaty, trouble sleeping, etc. Then keep the following tools in mind. Everyone is unique and different techniques work better than others. Use what works for you and keep them in your toolbox so you can remember to apply them when the stress kicks in. This is harder than it sounds. Even if you know the tools that work for you, when you’re feeling anxious it can be difficult to recognize and get your brain on board in finding the right tool. That’s okay.
Breathwork: There are so many theories on this one. Let’s keep it simple with a four-count.
Inhale for 4 counts
Hold for 4 counts
Exhale for 4 counts
Hold for 4 counts
Perform 8 times and take note of how much calmer and deeper your breaths become.
Exercise: It’s just movement so keep it simple and do what works for you. Remember that exercise is a form of stress so you might want to start with something inherently relaxing like yoga. But, if wailing on a bag in kickboxing helps you decompress – have at it!
Nature: Get outside! The gentle rain is a great metaphor for washing away the stress. The sunshine offers us much needed vitamin D which regulates calcium and phosphate – nutrients needed for strong and healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It’s also believed to ward off depression. Walking amongst the trees, flowers and along trails rewards you with the benefits of aromatherapy and a change in scenery. Getting your hands dirty, walking barefoot and planting seeds, flowers or a garden are fabulous ways to get grounded. Grounding benefits include neutralizing free radicals (those buggers that cause inflammation and premature aging amongst other things). Getting your hands dirty actually helps strengthen your microbiome and improve your immune system!
Prayer/Meditate: Whether formal or in a relaxed manner, it may bring on a feeling of relief in ‘giving it up’ and asking for help.
Your inner circle: It’s time you take a look at who surrounds you. The ones that encourage you, listen to you, hold you accountable and make you laugh… those are your people. Lean on them just as you would want them to come to you in their time of need.
There are so many other tools such as massage, music, reading, acupuncture – what other techniques do you find useful when feeling stressed or anxious? Remember that a healthy diet, movement daily and being grateful are the obvious tools that help us, but they’re also the poor guys that get tossed out the window at the first sign of hard times. Be patient. They say this too shall pass, but wouldn’t it be nice if it passed a little quicker?
25 May 2020