Stress takes a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health. It can leave us feeling irritable or exhausted; it can weaken our immune systems and mess with our digestion; it can disrupt our sleep and prevent us from enjoying our precious waking moments.
75%-90% of visits to the doctor's office are due to stress-related health concerns. It's imperative that we take a serious look at how stress impacts us individually and take measures to address it. Today, we're going to explore how to stress less and therefore live healthier lives.
#1. Change Your Diet
I'm not about to tell you to start counting your calories and cutting out your favorite foods. However, what you put in your body does play an integral role in your health. 86% of disease lives in the gastrointestinal tract, so, if we want to start feeling better, reexamining our diet is a good place to start.
We're constantly bombarded with contradictory messages about food. Is milk good or bad? What about carbs? Red meat? Butter? It's important to know that one size does not fit all. However, in general, you can bet that your body will thank you for cutting back on sugar and fried and processed foods.
Remember, food is fuel. When we fill our body up with processed foods that are weighing us down more than they're energizing us, we become run down much more easily. Stress hits us harder and we become stuck in a cycle of eating unhealthy comfort foods because we feel so awful, which only makes us feel worse.
How to Get Started: Think honestly about your diet and evaluate areas where you can make improvements. Do you need to drink more water, eat more vegetables, or eat smaller portions? Wherever there's room to grow, take it one step at a time. You don't want to set a whole bunch of strict rules that are hard to follow and end up giving up completely. Even improving one aspect of your diet will help you feel better.
Stress and diet are more linked than you might think. It's possible that certain foods are causing physical symptoms that leave your body feeling depleted or rundown. You could be eating too many acidic foods, causing heartburn or inflammation, or maybe too much dairy is taking a toll on your digestive system. We're all different, but consider what small changes you can make in the kitchen to manage your stress.
#2. Evaluate Your Lifestyle
When I say lifestyle, I'm referring to your normal everyday activities from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. We all know that we should be getting a minimum of six hours of sleep a night (and probably more!), but did you know that you should be going to bed by ten o’clock at night? Your body starts to detox around this time and the process works best if you're asleep while it's happening.
There's also the matter of phone usage. Are you guilty of scrolling through social media while laying in bed before going to sleep? Is reaching for your phone the first thing you do after opening your eyes in the morning? Both of these habits exacerbate stress. Being on your phone right before bed stimulates your brain, preventing you from getting the deep sleep your body needs. Starting your day off with mindless scrolling sets you up for a day of being out of tune with your body and its natural rhythms. Conversely, starting your day with a moment of peace sets you up to stay calm and in the moment, no matter what stressful situations arise.
How to Get Started: Just like with your diet, the key is to start small. Instead of waking up and immediately grabbing your phone, wait until breakfast time to check your emails. Once you've gotten used to that, challenge yourself to even more unplugged morning time. Maybe you can look out the window or set an intention for the day while eating breakfast instead. You'll be amazed how it shifts your perspective for the entire day.
Another way to manage your stress is to create a peaceful bedtime routine. Read a book instead of going on your phone before you go to bed. Make a strong effort to go to sleep earlier, with the goal of eventually hitting that 10 p.m. bedtime.
#3. Just Breathe!
In periods where you feel totally overwhelmed with stress, return to your breath. Maybe your biggest trigger is work presentations, one on ones with your boss, or traffic jams. Next time you feel your stress level skyrocket, try focusing on breathing for even just a few minutes. Really savor each simple intake and release of air.
Oftentimes, stress is taking us out of the moment. Our mind begins racing a mile a minute, fearful of all the things that could go wrong in the future or worrying about all of our past mistakes. Our breath reminds us to arrive exactly where we are, surrender to whatever is happening, and remember that we can only take it one moment at a time.
How to Get Started: A great way to manage your stress is to begin your day with some stretching and mindful breathing. Getting the body moving is great for releasing built-up tension and anxiety.
Take Action to Manage Your Stress
When it comes to how to stress less, there are many different ways to get started. Beginning with any one of the tips mentioned above will help you feel better. Remember to be patient with yourself and try, try again if the good habits don't stick right away.
If you're looking for more guidance on stress management and living a more balanced life, I encourage you to schedule a breakthrough call with me today. We'll identify your individual stressors and create a plan to help you live life with more ease.