Stress Management and Anxiety Help!
Summer is here… and the kids are on the loose!
I remember those days…… I began the summer with big plans filled with enriching ideas for my little ones. By the end of my summer, I was so stressed out that I would practically push them onto the school bus.
Now that they are adults, I look back on the summer time and really wish I had planned less and enjoyed more.
There is a very good reason we are given the instruction to put on our own oxygen mask in an airplane before we assist any one else. At 40,000 feet, you have between 15-20 seconds before we lose consciousness.
We need to take care of OUR needs before we focus on our families or our jobs.
Too often we put our jobs, families, and even our friends’ needs above our own. This may work for a short time; however, we often end up feeling unhappy, resentful, and completely stressed out.
Managing stress is a huge part of my 90-Day Health and Happiness program and part of my personal practice to reduce my Anxiety. Lets look a little at what we learn about stress in that program so we can approach this summer with more reasonable goals.
Because I like to be super-helpful, I am going to divide this post into two parts.
- The first part is for my fellow geeks that like to learn a little about the WHY our bodies respond to stress they way they do.
- The second part is a fast-forward to WHAT we can do for those stressed-out souls who have limited time.
WHY (for my geek tribe)
Our bodies have responded to stress since the beginning of time. If it didn’t, we would be dead. Dangers in the prehistoric days were widely different than they are today. When a saber-toothed tiger would chase us, our bodies would prepare to either fight or run away. As you can imagine, these dangers were immediately life threatening.
Our brains continually monitor for signs of danger even while we sleep. In times of stress or trauma, our brains instantly activate our bodies to prepare to protect ourselves!
Our nervous system continues to respond to present day danger in the same way: By releasing hormones that prepare us to fight or run away. Nowadays the perceived “threats” tends to be long-term mental/emotional stress like financial stress or traffic.
The physical responses are the same:
- Accelerated heart and lung action
- Flushing or paling of the skin
- Inhibiting digestion (you don’t need to digest your sandwich when you’re running for your life)
- Releasing fat and glucose to power your muscles
- Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
- Relaxation of bladder
- Tunnel vision
- And more…
Can you see how these responses would be helpful in a tiger attack?
Chronic stress has replaced tiger attacks, which I’m pretty sure is a good thing. We just need to learn how to manage it. Anxiety related health problems exist today because our brains perceive a threat, create the same physiological reactions, but the threat either never goes away (ex: work stress) or we are unable to physically deal with it (ex: because punching stupid people is still a crime).
According to webmd.com, the 10 Health problems related to stress are:
- Heart Disease
- Depression and Anxiety
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Accelerated aging
- Premature Death (seriously?!?)
Slowly, but surely, stress will kill us.
WHAT TO DO (for my time-crunched, stressed-out tribe)
- BREATHE: This may seem ridiculous until you understand the biology behind the tip. Here is the quick and dirty version: The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is divided into two parts: The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight-or-flight response and the parasympathetic nervous system promotes the “rest and digest” response (Harvard Health Publications, 2016). For chronic stress, we need to find a way to cue the body into believing that everything is fine. How do we do this? We breathe slow and deeply… and trick our bodies into believing that everything is A-Okay.
- MEDITATION/MINDFULNESS: The most basic way to describe mindfulness meditation is guiding 100% of your attention to the present moment without judgment. It means learning how to control your busy mind and its crazy, stressful thoughts! Mindfulness doesn’t need to be difficult or stressful (that would defeat the purpose). It DOES have to be practiced regularly to be successful. Mindfulness is a huge part of managing my own Anxiety and a solid part of my 90-Day Health Program.
- EXERCISE: I exercise for my physical, spiritual, and emotional health! I don’t know what I would do without it. The research suggests that engaging in at least 20 minutes of exercise can help with anxiety/stress reduction (Petruzzello, Landers, Hatfield, Kubitz, & Salazar, 1991). I’ve always thought that exercise “completes” the stress response by tricking my body into thinking it has gotten away from the threat! I’m not sure if this thought is true but I know I feel better after I exercise. As your body learns to adapt to one form of stress (physical stress) it will improve its management of emotional stress as well.
If you would like an easy and inexpensive exercise log, check out my Life Coaching/Exercise journal!
- NATURE: Spending time in nature can have some amazing health benefits. A study by Hansmann, R., Stella-Maria, H., & Seeland, K. (2007), showed that spending time in nature relieved headaches and stress significantly. The results were even better when the subject exercised in nature! Spending mindful moments surrounded by trees, digging in the dirt, or walking barefoot in the grass has a calming effect on your mind.
- JOURNAL: I encourage journaling in my life coaching practice. I am particularly fond of gratitude journaling and process journaling before bed. The journaling method that would benefit you the greatest would depend on your unique personal needs and specific kinds of stress
- FOODS: Watch what you eat! Like it or not, certain foods can affect your mood. The blood sugar roller coaster you experience with high sugar foods can make you feel crazy! Learn to identify these foods so you can avoid them during the high stressed times in your life. Unfortunately, simple carbs (cookies and sweets… you know, the yummy kind) can increase the feeling of stress by spiking our blood sugar.
If you feel too stressed to relax, and you KNOW it’s affecting your health, your weight and your energy levels, then schedule a time to talk with me about how to reduce or cope better with the stress in your life.
Here is a link to my Exercise Log and Life Coaching journal. It is easy, inexpensive and can help you as your learn to manage the stress in your life.
If you’d like more personalized help, sign up for a NO COST 30-minute consultation to see if life coaching can help you!