Stress management basics are mostly all alike…eat healthfully, get adequate sleep, let go of things you can’t control, be appropriately assertive, BUT relax regularly with regular exercise or lots of meditation and usually about a dozen other ‘Do’s and Don’ts.’ Do these generic lists ever make you wonder ‘ya, but HOW?’ or better yet ‘what is ADEQUATE sleep FOR ME?’ Often those things that feed our souls are very specific and personalized for each of us. One of the first things you have to understand is that the goal is a matter of MANAGING stress and that removing stress entirely is unrealistic.
Stress management techniques can be broken down into three basic areas:
Physical interventions include things like getting enough sleep/rest, and eating healthy, well-balanced meals. Stress increases levels of some harmful hormones in your body and it needs to be well cared for in order to recover as quickly as possible. Basically, your body needs time to recover; sleep, food and water are the building blocks of recovery for your body. Our bodies are able to fight stress better when they are well fuelled, that is what food is……fuel, not a comfort device. If food and drink become ‘comforting,’ that can easily become self-medicating. Similarly, alcohol and drugs should never be used when stressed either, paradoxically, that is exactly why people turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place. Rule of thumb, if you are eating or drinking anything to change your mood, you’re probably not being healthy!
Exercise regularly, which doesn’t have to include ‘intimidating’ stunts in the local gym, but rather moderate consistent and regular physical movement. In actuality, any moderate movement for between 30 – 60 minutes, 3-times a week is all that is required. Perhaps make it fun by putting on earphones and dance around your apartment as you’re cleaning the house, guess what? THAT COUNTS! Exercise may be defined as any purposeful movement that is a regular part of our daily routine, rather than only done in one place like the gym… So go ahead, dance everywhere and enjoy.
Emotional factors that help manage stress include things like accepting there are some things we cannot control. Remember the old alcoholics refrain, the ‘Serenity Prayer,’ well that’s a start folks. Next, keep a positive mental attitude and be assertive without being aggressive, and ask for help when you need it. But, that requires that you both KNOW and are able to communicate o others what you need. Unfortunately, many people have never asked themselves ‘what DO I need?’ Knowing yourself will help you choose those techniques that will help YOU distress. For example, there are some things we just cannot control, such as anyone other than YOU! You can control your response to others, but not their actions, thus living under the illusion that you can control others is actually setting yourself up for increased levels of stress…to be continued