I took a short time, on my way to work, to listen to a YouTube video on anti-inflammatory diets. While I was hoping to learn about actual foods I should be eating and I did, I didn’t have enough time to really hear about foods, but one thing that stuck with me was how stress affects our health.
What came to my mind immediately, was not how to reduce stress (which is really important), but was how do we cope with stress. While it’s not only good to be able to reduce the amount of stress we experience, sometimes we have moments in our lives where we can’t get rid of the stress. It’s during those times, we need to have skills to cope with those stressors. The hard part is getting the knowledge to be able to know what to do during those challenging times. I also think it’s really important to practice these skills when we are not in the midst of crazy stress. By practicing these coping skills when we are not stressed, it becomes our go to thing to do and we don’t have to think about it.
So, what can we do to cope with stress? My favorite way to cope with stress is using our breath. I have said before, I need to practice mindfulness and meditation more often, but breathing is one thing that I can always do no matter where I am and no matter what I am doing. Stopping and slowing down and paying attention to your breath helps to stop that fight or flight response. This is my mantra, “Just Breathe”.
Other ways to cope with stress is grounding exercises. There are different ways to ground yourself and one is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This is naming 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. This activity brings you back to the present moment. Your breath remains important in this activity too. Another grounding activity is taking a couple of minutes to watch your thoughts come and go. I have heard a great visual tool is to visualize your thoughts floating down a river on a leaf. This allows you to see your thoughts/stressors, but it also allows you to let them go. The letting go is the important part, but I also think acknowledging those thoughts and stressors are really important too. Another way I love is movement. I love taking just a couple of minutes to listen to some fun music and dance or move to the music. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just allowing the music to move you, relax, enjoy, and get out that need to move in a good positive way.
Another way to cope with stress, is to make time to do enjoyable activities. I believe that journaling and having creative activities in your life are a great way to deal with stress. This may not be a great way to deal with stress in the moment, but is is a great way to lessen the stress in your life. I love being creative and can feel my tension decrease as I create.
Another way I like to cope with stress is by getting outside. Utilizing nature, whether it is to get out and hike or to get outside and site and relax, is so important for our bodies. Getting out in the fresh air and breathing is so important. Another positive of getting out in nature is getting the benefits of the sun. My goal, is to get outside and move more, but also to get outside and meditate. I also want to get outside and camp more this year. I say it every summer, but I only go camping for about a week and a half. I plan to go camping and find some fun weekend camping this summer, maybe even this spring later in the season. I also plan to be more active in my gardening this year. I start of doing really great, but then I fizzle out. By increasing my time outside, I will also increase my time in the garden and getting your hands dirty is a great way to work on stress relief.
Another really important way to deal with stress is by living a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle includes eating healthy, having a good healthy sleep program, getting exercise/movement, decreasing your sugar and alcohol intake, and decrease your caffeine intake. I also think taking time to have a daily mindfulness practice is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
All the above practices are things that I need to work on. I do pretty good at maintaining a creative life, but the other things like good sleep habits, mindfulness, nature, and exercise are things that I really need to work on. A lot of times, writing in this blog is a way to remind me of the things I need to work on. I need to plan better and, as I have I have often written about, I need to stay off my phone and off social media. I need to utilize the internet in a positive manner, not as a way to escape. The internet is great for learning and social media is a great way to connect with others, but it can’t take away from the things you need to do.
How do you deal with stress? What is in your stress management tool box?