Laura Mayer, NBC-HWC
National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Illinois Bone & Joint Institute
Stress can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. It can also interfere with your energy, focus and judgement. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump start on managing them. When we are able to manage our stress, our body thanks us for it. Managing stress can improve your mood, boost immune function, promote longevity and reduce chronic conditions.
Some stress management techniques that you can fit into your lifestyle are:
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that runs through your head. Positive self-talk that comes along with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. Rewiring our thoughts can take practice, but what you practice grows stronger. The next time you have a negative thought, try reframing it and take inventory of how you feel afterward. Try using this exercise to reframe your thoughts:
- “I’ve tried that before and failed.”
- “I lack energy and motivation to get all of this done.”
- “It’s too big of a change.”
- “I should be doing better.”
- “I’ll try to tackle it from another angle.”
- “I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule, but I can re-examine some priorities.”
- “Let’s take a chance.”
- “I’m doing the best I can.”
The mindful practice of paying attention to the present moment helps us control the racing, repetitive, and non-productive thoughts that lead to stress. If you need to refocus your attention to the present moment, try deep breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then, let your breath settle into its own rhythm, as you simply follow it in and out, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and belly as you breathe.
Movement and physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that reduce our perception of pain and trigger positive feelings—which in turn, reduce stress. Find movements that your body enjoys, whether that be yoga, pilates, a brisk walk, swimming, running, weight-lifting, cycling, etc.
Take Good Care of Yourself
Eating healthy, wholesome foods keeps you alert throughout the day and your mood steady. It also provides your body with the necessary nutrients to handle stressful situations. Strive for 7–8 hours of quality sleep a night and move when possible. Taking care of ourselves increases our resilience, which is our ability to bounce back from adversity and stress.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to significantly increase your happiness and reduce your stress. Some ways to practice gratitude include journaling a few things that you are grateful for each day. Gratitude can help us appreciate what we have in life. For example, being grateful for a heating bill because it is a reminder that you have warmth and shelter. Not everyone in life has those simple pleasures. Make gratitude a daily part of your routine.
Self Care–Make Time for Yourself
Self care can mean a lot of different things, but what is universal about self care is that you are doing something for yourself. Make time to engage in things you enjoy as a way to relieve stress. Whether that be massage, making time for a hobby or allowing time for rest and relaxation–the possibilities are endless. Learn that taking time to yourself is just as important as giving time to other activities.
How will you manage your stress? Try out different tips and techniques and see what works best for you.
Laura Mayer, NBC-HWC, is an Integrative Health Coach with Illinois Bone & Joint Institute. She has worked with many populations on wellness topics ranging from disease management and weight loss, to tobacco cessation and pain management. Learn more…