Updated: Oct 7
Feel like you have so much to do and not enough time to do it? That is me practically everyday. Between work, maintaining the house, meal-prepping, working out and trying to make time for a little fun, life can be hard! For some reason it is hard to let go of the expectation that if I haven't completed everything on my to-do list, I've failed.
While I can't always control the stress put on me at work, I can control the way I react to it. Also, I can try to reduce stress that is self-imposed. It isn't always easy but I can try. Intuitively, we all know stress is bad for our health.
What is stress? Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension from your body’s reaction to a demand or challenge. (Source: Precision Nutrition) Stress can be positive! It is not always a bad experience. Have you had to meet a deadline or avoid a dangerous situation? That is good stress! Negative stress is when stress happens for a prolonged period of time, turning into chronic stress and causing burnout.
What are the signs of burnout? There are a variety of physical, emotional and mental symptoms. Here is a quick overview:
PHYSICAL: Heart palpitations, heart racing, stomach upset, headaches, jaw pain, startle easily, lack of appetite and feeling spaced out.
EMOTIONAL: feeling sad, trapped, pessimistic, alone. Feeling like no one appreciates you. Trying very hard to control something, like your weight or routine and feeling like you are failing.
MENTAL: forgetful, hard to concentrate, procrastination, hard to prioritize tasks, feeling anxious and/or worrying a lot.
What are stress symptoms? According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can lead to stomach problems, insomnia or disrupted sleep, high blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. That's some pretty serious stuff! In fact, if you are stressed, your gut health is affected. What happens is our brains send signals to the gut when we are stressed that can result in diarrhea, feeling nauseous and having abdominal pain.
One way to avoid the negative effects of stress, is to practice positive actions in our daily routine to relieve stress. Below are 5 actions that you can take for stress management.
If you want to start practicing any of the below, take it slow. Sometimes, when we want stress relief, it makes us stress out even more! I recommend taking one of the below actions and trying to do it one to three days a week for two weeks. Once you are used to the change in your routine, add a fourth day. Then, you can add a second activity to your routine.
Unfortunately, life will get in the way when you are trying to make a change in your routine. A sick child, being a caregiver to an aging parent, travel for work, holiday's and family celebrations. All of which can be very stressful. Here are some ways to be kind to yourself when making a change:
Stay Positive. Even if there was only one day you were able to reduce your stress in a week or month, that is progress. A fun way to track your progress is to set a reward for yourself for achieving a goal. Maybe it is a day at the beach, buying a book you really want to read or taking a bubble bath. Rewards can help keep us on track and give us something to look forward to.
Reflect and Learn. Ask yourself why you weren't able to make the change. Did you simply forget? Would a reminder on your calendar or cellphone to walk for 5 minutes help you do it? Are you more successful when you have a friend doing to same activity as you?
Find Professional Help. Sometimes we need help to get out of our own way. There may be limiting beliefs that are stopping you from working on your stress levels. Uncovering those beliefs can move you forward and help you make change.