7 Actionable Tools to Beat Stress Right When it Starts
This is the time of year where, in my experience, when many people begin to undergo a lot of stress. With finals, year-end deadlines and holidays around the corner, the stack of to-do's can feel daunting. I myself experienced this today when I woke up and jumped into my day without really grounding myself.
My bills came in and they were higher than usual. I have 3 major final exams I haven't started preparing for, a paper than needs a lot of revision before I can submit it. To top it off, I'm juggling trying to build a business, blog and maintain my fitness regimen.
The knowledge of these factors began to overwhelm me. I couldn't focus. I had to postpone certain tasks. I frantically paced my room. I did all of this, until I stopped and realized that I was allowing my situation to beat me.
You have to dig deep in these moments. Your mind is a powerful tool. It's important to take control of the situation as soon as you realize you're feeling stress.
In our brains, we literally have what is called, a negative feedback system. This system is what tells our body to stop releasing corticotrophin/cortisol hormone when we begin to experience stress, and our brains realize we are okay.
Our stress response is great when we need it during short, actuate stress endured situation. Times when you need to get through a gruelling workout, or run away from a bear, or even perhaps win in an argument, our "fight or flight" system is fabulous. It's not so great, however, when we allow this stress to become chronic.
Chronic stress can last up to a month, and finals, year-end deadline, holidays tend to last a bit longer than that. If we allow our stress response system to release hormones to continue to help us cope, it can bcome very detrimental to our health.
For this reason, I thought it might be beneficial to others, and myself to clearly lay some actionable tools to help stop stress when it first begins. These are 5 things I did mid day to help bring myself back to homestotasis, and out of a "I gotta run from this bear" state.
Get up from where you are, and go to a place or environment where you can stretch, walk or meditate. Spend several minutes concentrating on simply bringing air into your body, and reaching bodily peace with every breath. Don't focus on anything except for your breath, and allow your body to relax as it moves, or remains still.
You can put on a gentle yoga video and follow the instruction of the person's voice to experience deep breathing and gentle movement. If you're not particularly a fan of yoga, why not just put a series of stretches together and do that for 10-15 minutes? It will help bring oxygen through your body, help your muscle relax, and allow you to focus on being calm. If you enjoy walking, go for a walk! It might be brisk, if you're like me and live in Canada or another region of cold climate. Otherwise, let the sun beam into you and just relax your mind, soul and body.
#2 CUT THE COFFEE, ADD CHAMOMILE
Coffee is an excitatory stimulus that awakens your central nervous system. It elevates your cortisol levels, by activating your sympathetic nervous system. Coffee, is in fact, not bad–it is however, not beneficial when your stress levels are already increase beyond your normal state of calm. Drinking coffee will only increase the arousal effect, signalling your body to enter a more stressed state. Instead, opt for an herbal tea, a tea with lower caffeine levels, or my favourite bed time friends, chamomile! It is an herbal tea that relaxes your whole body and does not stimulate your central nervous system by any means. If you need energy, do some jumping jacks, take a quick nap, drink ice cold water, have a nutritious meal, and be sure to get a full 8 hours tonight.
#3 EAT SOMETHING NUTRITIOUS
Don't cause your body any more stress by consuming food high in artificial sugars, additives, chemicals, pesticides, etc. Go grab or prepare a healthy meal composed of leafy green, colourful vegetables, sweet fruit and some lean clean plant protein (oh I know you caught that rhyme). It will give your body the energy required to get back to a balanced state homeostasis including mind clarity, proper bodily function and better emotional control.
#4 CUT OUT SOME TASKS
The way I see it, it's better to get less done than nothing done because you're unable focus. When you're stressed, it makes it more challenging to do well. By narrowing your focus to 1-2 tasks versus 4-5, will allow you to dedicate what focus you do have to doing that task well. If you attempt your hand at all the un-checked boxes on your to-do list, you will only be rushing through them in an anxious hurry. You want the work you do to be valuable, so cut something out for today, and focus on doing the tasks remaining really well.
#5 DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE
For me, that's training and writing. I got ready to leave, went to the gym but before hand, took some time to write—I wrote this, actually. And it helped remind me of what I should do. It eased my anxiety by forcing me to focus on the moment at present.
It may be true that working out puts your body in a flight or fight state, but it also helps the release of endorphins, which aid at increasing positive emotional sentiments providing you better clarity and less anxiety. When you engage in an activity you love, your reward system in your brain is activated, which is involved in releasing dopamine. Dopamine, if you didn't know, is responsible for making you feel good when you perform certain tasks. It's what keeps us eating, reproducing and doing all we can to survive.
#6 VISUALIZE POSITIVITY
Set your mind to believe every thing will work out. Begin speaking to yourself that there is a plan. Let go of the small details that are not important–you know what they are. Understand that you are powerful beyond measure, and that no circumstance is too difficult for you to handle. By focusing on positive things, your mind is beginning to experience more positive sentiments, and can better prepare for what ever is ahead. Think about the beautiful aspects of your life, and how those things make you feel. Think about your loving spouse, or cousin, or sibling, or co-worker, or friend. Look at something beautiful. The ocean, the trees, the sunset. Close your eyes, and try to paint the picture in your mind of positive vibes.
#7 PRAY & TRUST
At the end of the day, your next breathe and next day is not promised. You have no control over the way the world will turn, or how things will go. You only have control over yourself. Difficult situations will come and try to steal your peace and happiness. It's your responsibility not to allow them to. Take a moment to pray. Thank God for your future. Thank him for working every detail out that you can't. And then trust that he's got your back and will help you.
I also want to take a moment and let you know, woman to man or woman, that no aspect of your life needs to be perfect. You're on the right path to where you belong. Take these things to heart. I can't say they'll help you the same way they assisted me, but I CAN say that I know everything will work out for your good in the end. I'm here with you praying and trusting, breathing, loving on you and wishing you well. My inbox is always open.
Thank you so much for reading.