This challenge has been primarily focused on improving your diet and exercise habits, with a sprinkling of stress management techniques throughout. This week, I want to focus on that topic more thoroughly, so that you can transition back into your everyday lifestyle with better stress management and self-care techniques, in order to maintain both your physical and mental health.
In a world where we are always being pushed to do better, accomplish more, and cram more work into less time, we are all facing the stress that life throws at us. For drivers, this stress is multiplied as they have to cope while alone and on the road for up to weeks at a time.
We all face stressors of some kind, from acute to chronic stress, mild to severe, and we all respond to it differently. You see, it’s not about removing the stress from your life, because it will always be there in some form, it’s about managing your own time, therefore improving how you respond to stress, in order to prevent it from negatively affecting your mental and physical health.
The Effect of Stress
Stress can contribute to weight gain in multiple ways, including excess calorie intake through emotional eating (or drinking), as well as hormone response, specifically cortisol and adrenaline, which can contribute to weight gain, especially in the mid-section.
Stress, when not properly managed, can even contribute to negative attitudes and poor self-respect, causing a disinterest in healthy habits like proper nutrition and exercise.
When we get busy or stressed, self-care is often the first thing to be dropped from our routines, but it should actually be the first thing that you add into your routine.
Managing your exposure to stress
Some forms of stress are unavoidable, that will never change, but some things are within our control, and it’s important to recognize the effect it has on you and limit how much you’re around it.
For example, both the news and social media contain a lot of negativity, including politically-charged topics, as well as disturbing and upsetting stories, videos, and images. Social people also shows us never ending posts from those who look like they have the perfect life, causing you to compare yourself to them and feel inadequate, even when it’s not true. Without even realizing it, a morning review of the news or a scroll on social media can trigger a stress response in your body, impacting your health long-term. Limiting your screen time, news intake, or social media usage can be a great way to reduce the effect it has on you.
This is a form of self-care, because without even having to do anything additional, you’re simply setting boundaries for what you will expose yourself to.
Stress management and Self-Care Techniques:
There are many tips and methods out there for managing stress, but only you can understand what the proper self-care and stress management routine will look like.
Some people find it best to get lost in a long run, others prefer to watch a funny movie with their loved ones. Some turn to mediation, others look to music.
The options for stress management and self-care are endless, but some of my recommendations include the following:
- Exercise – releases feel-good endorphins to lift your mood
- Walking – similar to exercise, but can be as slow of a stroll as you like
- Yoga – grounding, and helps you to disconnect from stressful thoughts
- Massage therapy – releases physical tension caused by stress
- Music – listening to music, playing an instrument, or singing
- Meditation – guided, solo, or even just as simple as focusing on your breath for a couple of minutes
- Deep breathing – similar to meditation, yet perhaps less intimidating
- Animals – playing with one, or even just watching cute animal videos on YouTube!
- Comedy – funny movies or videos, laughing with friends, going to a comedy club
- Journaling – this can be as simple as writing out your thoughts on a sticky note before bed, and is a great way to let go of the day
- Sleep/naps – sleep can be difficult when stressed, but be sure to get as much sleep as you can to improve your stress response
- Plants – looking at and caring for plants can be a relaxing, happiness-promoting hobby
- Tidying – believe it or not, working or living in a cleaner environment can actually reduce stress levels
- Game – anything you can play alone or with others is a great way to destress
- Spend time in nature – this has been shown to reduce feelings of stress and boost feelings of happiness
Choose what works for you and make it a part of your daily routine, even if you only have time for a few deep breaths. Remember, stress management is most successful when practiced consistently and ideally daily, rather than only when you are under stress. It should be as much of a part of your routine as brushing your teeth!
What stress management or self-care practices do you plan to implement, or what do you already practice?