Neal Pire, MA, CHC, EP-C, CSCS, FACSM
National Director of Wellness Services, Castle Connolly Private Health Partners
Stress isn’t what happens to you, but how you respond to what happens to you. Understanding this key point is empowering. It implies that you can deal effectively with daily stressors, if you apply the right strategies. By finding positive, healthy ways to manage that overwhelming feeling as it occurs, many of it’s negative health consequences can be reduced.
There are as many ways to manage feeling high-strung. Some people pursue gardening, playing music or painting, while others find relief in activities like meditation or a quick workout. Here is a short list of simple tactics that can help you manage your daily grind.
- Develop your healthy response skills.Don’t fight stress with your favorite comfort food or alcohol. Instead, make healthy choices when you feel tense. A brisk walk or run is a great stress-buster, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Yoga can be an excellent choice. Set aside time for the things that bring you pleasure: read a novel, go to a show or play games with your family, and help re-balance your day-to-day life.
- Take a break from the stressor.We sometimes feel overwhelmed by a big work project, a crying baby, or a growing pile of bills, with no relief in sight. Allow yourself permission to step away from it, and do something else that can provide a new perspective. It’s important to not avoid your stress (those bills have to be paid sometime), but just 20-minutes to decompress and take care of yourself can be helpful.
- Act as if.“Pins and needles, needles and pins, a happy man is a man who grins.” Our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions. When people are stressed, they often hold a lot of the stress in their face. Laughing or smiling can actually help relieve some of that tension and improve the situation.
- Get social support.Call a friend or send an email. Share your concerns with another person whom you feel can understand and validate your feelings.
- Sleep. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.
- Exercise. As Cicero said, “It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” Humans have known this for centuries, and the research continues to support it — exercise benefits both your body and mind. Even a 20-minute walk, run, swim, or dance during a stressful time can provide a positive impact that can last for several hours.
- Meditate. Meditation helps you relax and focus. Practicing mindfulness, much like exercise, even briefly, can help mitigate stress.