Simply put, manage stress … or it will manage you.
Stress is unavoidable. Whether we face it in our business or personal lives, it most assuredly lurks. The question becomes what do we do when we come face-to-face with this unwanted emotion? Like all successful businesses that have a crisis communications plan in place, we as individuals must have a stress management program.
Too many of us come up short when it comes to training and preparedness for stress. We can just turn on the television or browse the Internet to witness some pretty horrible ways people “lose their cool” when faced with high-stress situations.
Let’s look at several strategies, some easy to implement and a few more ambitious, for people wanting to lighten their stress load.
Take A Breath Break. The authors of the book 8 Secrets of a Healthy 100 offer some great breathing suggestions. Proper breathing invigorates your body, mind and spirit. It helps you relax, think more clearly and have more energy.
Take 10 minutes a day (or whenever you need a boost) to do the following deep breathing exercise:
1. Sit or stand comfortably with your back straight but relaxed.
Inhale through your nose slowly for a count of four.
Inflate your belly (not your chest) like a balloon.
Hold your breath for a count of four.
Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of seven, expelling as much air from your lungs as you comfortably can.
Repeat this exercise three or four times.
As your body becomes more used to this activity, you can increase the duration of the breaths or the number of breaths you take. Just be sure to stop if you feel dizzy or faint. To further enhance the experience, use this time of deep breathing to meditate or pray.
Once you make deep breathing a regular part of your routine, you may find you get more energy from taking a breath than from a coffee or snack break.
Think nutrition. Make sure you are eating well. You can be doing everything correctly to manage your stress, but without adequate nutrients for cellular repair, the body can’t repair itself. Protein and fiber-rich foods will help provide energy for a busy schedule. Complex carbohydrates—whole grains, vegetables and fruits—are excellent choices. Carbohydrates cause the body to release a hormone called serotonin, which can improve a person’s mood. It is best to avoid high-calorie, high-sugar and white-flour choices.
Move. Our bodies were made to move. Holding static positions (like sitting in front of a computer all day) is not natural. Taking a break often to stretch and engage in a few range-of-motion exercises will help keep things flowing.
“Our thoughts really do have an effect on our health and outlook on life. Taking a few minutes each day to recap all of the things that are going right in your life will go a long way towards keeping those unexpected speed bumps in perspective.”
Stay positive. Our thoughts really do have an effect on our health and outlook on life. Taking a few minutes each day to recap all of the things that are going right in your life will go a long way towards keeping those unexpected speed bumps in perspective. It has been shown that positive affirmations help, too.
Laugh. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, or especially when it doesn’t, laughter works wonders! Even in the middle of difficult circumstances, try to find the humor in your situation. The physical act of laughing triggers an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.
Do yoga. The ancient Indian practice of yoga has become quite popular. A generic term for the physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines with a view to attain a state of permanent peace, yoga was brought to the West in the late 19th century by Hindu monks. There are many different types of yoga to practice, so do your homework to determine which is best for you. Among popular types of yoga are Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Iyengar and Anusara.
Put A Hole In Your Stress Bubble
Garry Welsh realized his mistake too late. And there was no way he could let on to the woman he had just started dating.
They had spent the afternoon together, and Christine was returning home. Garry wanted to go back for a jog and asked her if she would drop him off somewhere along the way so he could run back. They started talking, and before Garry knew it they had driven nine miles. Garry was a novice runner at the time, nothing longer than two miles.
“So I put on a straight face and said, ‘Just drop me off here; this will be fine.’ She was impressed that I could run nine miles,” he said. “I made it back somehow! I was just a young guy then. Exercise was less of a priority in those days.”
That was more than 20 years ago. Garry and Christine, now his wife of 24 years, have continued to exercise and do their best to stay fit. Garry, 49, is training for an Ironman triathlon—140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running. Christine, 53, is an avid golfer and is preparing for her third half-marathon this fall.
“Keeping active every day is important,” said Garry, who is using his triathlon to raise $140,600 for lung cancer research at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.
Staying fit not only serves your body but can help you emotionally, as well. In addition to being a great way to take care of your heart and control your weight, exercise can let the air out of your stress bubble.
Christine, a mother of four and nonsmoker, has recovered from lung cancer surgery last year. Running, she says, is a great way to free her mind: “When you’re out there running, you’ve just got your own thoughts and nothing else interfering with that time.”
For Garry, exercise helped him through the stressful six-day period when Christine was hospitalized and undergoing tests to confirm her cancer. “The exercise helped to keep me positive,” he recalled. “When she was in the hospital, I would sneak out for a couple hours to do a run, a swim or a bike ride, and then I would come back feeling energized and ready to help Christine with her recovery.”
The Welshes have been on the move, not just through their respective exercise regimens. They relocated to Central Florida from England in 2006. The couple and their four children had been vacationing in Orlando for years. Along the way, they bought a vacation home near Kissimmee. They moved here because of a desire to test themselves and push their boundaries.
Now calling Central Florida home, they continue that push.
Alex Beasley Guest Blogger, Medical Writer and Editor