It’s hard to imagine life without stress. Our culture has normalized living in fight or flight mode and glorified the high performer and over achiever. Stress is ingrained in society to the point that the American Institute of Stress reported 55% of Americans are stressed during the day.
On my recent health journey, I became aware of how important it is to manage my stress level. Stress can impact my blood sugar, digestion, and sleep. When in that fight or flight mode, adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body which can impact glucose levels. Additionally, it can slow down the emptying of the stomach while increasing the function of the large intestine. And, higher levels of stress are shown to have a direct correlation to hours of sleep. Knowing this can cause me even more tension as I stress about managing my stress.
So, I need to know what tools I have in my toolbox to assist with reducing stress levels without stressing out about it.
Take a breath. I am a chronic stress breather where I only take shallow breaths. I use the Mindfulness app on my watch to remind me throughout the day to breathe. It has taken some practice to learn how to breathe deeply into my diaphragm but has helped.. And, when I pause to breathe before eating, it benefits digestion as well.
Take a walk. When I am working on a high intensity project, hours can pass by without my notice. My shoulders begin to creep up with the tension, and the stress level rises as I tackle one task after another. Simply stepping away for a short walk allows me to relax my shoulders, turn my mental focus elsewhere, and take a physical break.
Sit in the sunshine. I learned this from my dog. Especially in the winter, I enjoy pulling my sleeves up and basking in the sunshine. Feeling the sun on my skin is not only warming but also provides important Vitamin D.
Journal it. For me, this starts with a gratitude list in the morning to set the tone for the day. It also can include a mental dump at night when I let go of my list for safekeeping until I wake in the morning. And, at times I use journaling as a tool to spill out a stream of consciousness to provide release of all the concerns in my mind.
Stress may be inevitable as part of the human experience, but I have many choices available to me when stress arises. The ones mentioned here are free and easy to access, but certainly not an exhaustive list. Some find benefits in supplements, massage, counseling, exercise, and more. The most important thing is to have a tool box that’s right for you in those stressful moments.