Identify Bad Habits and Behaviors that Add to Stress
While it may be easy to identify the sources of stress following a major life event such as changing jobs, moving to a new home or losing a loved one, pinpointing the sources of everyday stress can be more complicated. It’s extremely easy to overlook your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors that contribute to your stress levels. You may know that you are constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing increase stress in your life.
Identifying the true sources of your stress requires you to look closely at your habits, attitude and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress and temporary (i.e. “I just have a million things going on right now”) even though can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (i.e “Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (i.e. “I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
- Do you blame your increased stress on others or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining your stress, your stress levels will remain out of control.
Replace Unhealthy Coping Strategies with Healthy Ones
Think about the current ways you manage and cope with your stress. Keeping a stress journal can help you identify them. Are your strategies for coping healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many individuals cope with stress in ways that compound the issue. While these coping strategies may temporarily reduce your stress, they can cause more damage in the long run. These may include smoking, drinking, binging on junk food or withdrawing yourself from friends and family.
If your methods of coping with stress are not contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it may be time to find healthier ways to cope. There is no single method that works for everyone or in every situation, so consider experimenting with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
Physical activity plays an important role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. You don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits either. Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension and frustration. Exercising releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good. In addition, exercise can also serve as a valuable distraction to your daily worries.
The maximum benefit comes from exercising for 30 minutes or more, but can start small and build your fitness level up gradually. Short, 10-minute bursts of activity that elevate your heart rate and make you break out into a sweat can assist in relieving stress, as well as give you more energy and optimizing. Even very small activities over the course of the day can add up. The first step is to get yourself up and moving, and here are a few easy ways to start:
- Put on some music and dance around
- Take your dog for a walk
- Walk or cycle to the grocery store
- Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
- Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
- Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you workout
- Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids
Practice Deep-Breathing Techniques and Regular Stretching
Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and tai chi are great ways of calming a racing mind. Deep breathing exercises oxygenates your blood, which can be relaxing. By contrast, shallow chest breathing can speed up your heart and cause your muscles to tense.
Take one minute out of your day to loosen and stretch out your muscles. Consider the cat-cow stretch (a popular move in yoga) in a seated position at your desk. Simply sit up straight in your chair, with both feet flat on the floor, and exhale as your curve your spine and contract forward in a cow pose. Then, inhale as your arch your spin and tilt your had back in cat pose. Repeat for five breaths.
These are just a few tips for those looking to better manage their stress for a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to your health, you want to know that you are receiving patient-centered care. Brashear Family Medical Center physicians are specialized in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of symptoms and diseases in children and adults of all ages. We provide comprehensive health care that is based on the patient’s family history and are committed to providing continuous quality care to every member of the family through every stage in life. Contact us with the link below for more information on how to better manage your stress!