Stress is an inevitable part of life — we can certainly agree on that, can’t we? There are some things in life that we just can’t dodge, no matter how much we want to, and stress is one of them. There’s always a few too many things on our to-do lists, a big project at work that is due next week, and the list goes on.
Overwhelming stress can wreak havoc on your health and wellbeing — including sleep issues, headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, digestion problems — the list goes on. It’s incredible the amount of influence stress has on how our bodies function.
Even though you cannot avoid stress, equipping yourself with practical tools to combat stress can make a drastic difference in your life.
Here are a few practical ways to cope with stress:
Train your brain. Replacing your negative thoughts with positive or productive ones can crank down your stress levels. When you feel a negative thought creeping in, dig into what’s going on and give yourself some grace. Instead of throwing your hands in the air in a huff saying “Why is this happening to me again?!” as you’re stuck in traffic for the sixth day in a row… replace these thoughts with something more productive. Is there a different route home that you could take that may be less crowded? Could you listen to a book during your commute to use your time more wisely? The important takeaway here is to use your energy for productive, positive thoughts. You are human, of course, so no-one expects you to be a ray of sunshine every moment of the day — but learning to train your brain in this way can drastically impact your mood a majority of the time!
Breathe in, breathe out. Stress and the busy nature of life have an impact on how we breathe. The majority of people do not naturally breathe deeply, but instead, breathe very shallow breaths. Stop and notice how you are breathing right now. Chances are, you are not breathing deep enough to fill your lungs to the point your stomach extends. It can be quite a hard habit to change since our bodies do the breathing for us without having to think about and initiate each breath. Deep breathing provides the brain with optimal levels of oxygen which have many health benefits. Practicing deep breathing three times a day will help re-train this habit and will help decrease stress levels.
Avoid unnecessary stress. Evaluate what is stressing you out currently and write a list of anything that comes to mind. Do you have too much on your plate? Have you overcommitted yourself and your time? Take a look at where you can cut some things out and where you can delegate some tasks out to others. Get creative with how you can turn these stressors into something less impactful on your health. Example: Does grocery shopping with your kids in tow completely stress you out? Try grocery shopping online or using curbside grocery pickup that some grocery stores offer.
One of the best ways I combat stress daily is to get on my mat every morning and do my practice (yoga that is), and meditation. It’s the one thing that keeps me breathing deeply and stops my ‘monkey’ mind! For you, it might be going for a bike ride, a walk, or a run. Pick something that works for you and try to do it on a daily basis.