What would you say if I told you that there are four simple things you can do to look better, feel better, and be healthier overall—and none of them have anything to do with nutrition or exercise? Would you believe me? What if I told you that you could have all of those benefits if you simply did a better job managing your stress?
As we all should realize by now, the body is a system with a lot of moving parts. I like to think of it as an assembly line, and I always picture the hilarious I Love Lucy episode where when one part of the assembly line is disrupted, and the whole thing turns into a big disaster.
Luckily, with the human body, things don’t typically go awry that quickly, but you get the idea. If you’re like most women I work with, you don’t prioritize stress management, and your sympathetic nervous system is primed all the time. You basically exist solely in “fight or flight” mode.
You see, your body doesn’t differentiate between different types of stress, so the reactions to different stressors are similar.
For example, whether you’re late for a meeting, stuck in traffic, fighting with your spouse, or bouncing a check, your body reacts similarly to when you’re being held at gun point, or being chased by a predator.
Essentially, your body thinks you’re running from a lion trying not to get eaten ALL. DAY. LONG.
No wonder we are all exhausted.
Another important point to consider is that we are the only animals who can create our own stress. We sit around all day worrying and stressing, often about things we can’t even control. We allow ourselves to be overworked and underpaid, we say “yes” too often when we don’t want to, and we spread ourselves way too thin (yes… I am talking to you). Check out this book for more information.
So what can you do about it? These four tips are a good start:
Whenever you feel yourself getting worked up about anything, especially if you cannot control it, stop and take 10 deep breaths into your belly. Make sure they last at least 10-15 seconds each. When you are done you will be more relaxed and focused, and hopefully have a better perspective on the situation. You can also turn the ringer off on your phone, and remove social media alerts from your phone as well. Those constant distractions keep us primed and ready to go all day long.
Whether it’s prayer, deep breathing, or just lying down and listening to your favorite relaxing music, take 5 minutes, once or twice a day to clear your mind and relax. It will be one of the most difficult, but important things you learn to do for yourself. Even if you can’t get the hang of it at first, just lie still and breathe deeply. You’ll feel instantly more calm.
Do you loathe chairing that one committee at your children’s school and dread every meeting? Then step the heck down! Let someone else do it who gets enjoyment from it.
Do you have one friend who always calls and just unloads all of their negativity on you and leaves you feeling icky? Have a talk with them about their behavior, and let them know that you care for them and want the friendship to fill you both up, not suck you dry. Who knows? You may be just the boost they need to make a change!
Commit to taking care of yourself, so that you can fulfill your responsibilities more fully and with more passion. You might do less overall, but you’ll do it well!
A couple of months ago, I had a particularly stressful day. I worked from 9 am until 11 pm, and I was incredibly cranky because our internet was slow at the gym and every assignment took twice as long to complete. I was crazy-hungry because I hadn’t eaten much that day, I felt like work was piling up, and like everyone wanted something from me. I was about to lose my mind. I packed up my stuff, got in my car and headed home.
On the way home, I started thinking about why I was so upset and I realized:
It was that simple. Thinking those thoughts was all it took to turn a stressful situation into an amazing situation. I instantly started chuckling at myself, and just started feeling grateful for my life. It really is all about perspective, isn’t it?
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