Part Two: What to Avoid to Manage Stress
There is no shortage of reasons to feel stressed out (especially in a pandemic). From family obligations to work deadlines, or health worries, stress is something you experience daily. The purpose of stress is to serve as a natural response to how you interact with your surroundings. However, if not managed properly, it can be the cause of unwanted but expected health issues. Illnesses ranging from headaches to cardiovascular and heart problems often come as a result of not properly managing stress.
So, how can one stay away from it? You cannot. But what can be done to handle it is to change certain habits that increase stress in your life. You would be surprised how simple things we do every day contribute to the pressure you experience. With a little love and commitment to yourself, you can stop these unhealthy ways and start reducing stress from day to day.
Here are a few things you can avoid.
Caffeine and Stimulants
There is nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning to get the day started. But too much of anything can be detrimental. Caffeine is the go-to stimulant to stay alert, notably in the workplace where it is always readily served to keep workers on their toes. Some people admit to drinking coffee on average up to 5 cups a day.
Coffee gives you a surge of adrenaline and can often instantly boost your mood, but once it crashes, it will leave you wanting for more to recreate that rush. This causes your level of cortisol (the hormone responsible for response to stress) to rise and stay high, not giving your body a chance to regain normalcy. This disrupts your sleep, your energy depletes and therefore causes you stress.
Another example of a stimulant is the cigarette. The irony is people usually turn to smoking thinking it will help them relax but it actually does the opposite. Biologically alone, your body has to work harder. Your lungs have to pump more oxygen throughout the body which increases your heart rate. This has been said to trigger anxiety, which is a form of emotional stress.
Maybe reducing your coffee intake or your cigarette breaks can be significant to reduce stress. The point is moderation is key.
Lack of Daily Routine
You cannot entirely have control over your day no matter how much you plan. There is always something bound to come up, parents know this all too well. On the flip side, not having a set routine can leave you unprepared and vulnerable to happenstance. Having to figure things out on the spot can be stressful especially if time is not on your side.
This is not to say that there cannot be room for spontaneity in your life. But structure helps to minimize stress where your mental energy is not constantly operating in fight or flight mode. Your physical stamina is also not spent having to respond frantically to a demand it was not ready to meet.
Try to make a plan to get a better idea of what you expect to happen throughout your day.
Procrastinating and Running Late
Procrastination is definitely the biggest culprit for stress. As we mentioned earlier, time may not be a luxury if you are undertaking a huge project at work, for example. But waiting last minute, like working on a week project the day of the deadline or the night before will definitely leave you feeling the pressure.
Procrastinating is a form of self-sabotage. You will be met with self-doubt, anxiety and be rushed. Not reaching your desired results will leave you feeling inadequate. Giving yourself more time to accomplish a set goal or complete a task, however mundane, will allow you margin to correct errors. It will also give you a chance to make appropriate adjustments along the way.
The best course of action is to schedule your plans as close to completion as possible. Book it in your calendar and chunk out your week accordingly. For example Monday to Friday emails are checked from 9-9:30 and 1-1:30 and 4pm. From 9:30 -noon is that big project you are working on. 12-1 is lunch time with a 20 minute walk around the block/neighbourhood. Of course things come up but scheduling your day so that you make a conscious effort to focus on one task at a time can significantly reduce stress and help you get things done.
Overbooking Your Schedule
On the other end of the spectrum, being too busy is the other reason why stress is so prevalent in modern society. From the moment you wake up, you are met with a slew of to-do lists. Whether you go to work or school, it seems like there is a never ending lineup of chores and activities piling one of top of the other.
What makes it worse is when you realize the many tasks left with an unchecked box. The more you think you do, you find out there are more things that need to be done. Once again, parents will be the first to attest to this type of overwhelm. Stress is then experienced by feeling like you are drowning and helpless, that maybe you have bitten more than you can chew.
Asses your schedule and scale back on the things that can be done by prioritizing them and spreading them out over the course of a few days, week or month.
Lack of exercise
Exercising is a stress reliever, which is why we are mentioning it twice. That is just how important it is, but it doesn’t have to be something you feel forced to do. You can make it fun!
When you don’t exercise, you are not allowing the body to release the compounded chemicals and waste buildup in the body. You may think you might not have time or that exercising would be too tiresome for an already weary body. Biologically, exercise releases endorphins in the bloodstream that helps to reduce pain, promotes strength and improves sleep. Which are all great ways to relieve stress.
You don’t have to join a gym necessarily. There are exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home. Walking is always a highly recommended and effective way to clear your mind and relieve stress. Another one of choice is swimming, which is fun to do in itself. Jogging, power walking, all good options as well and they don’t require you to own equipment or have an expense. Yoga or pilates on youtube or other paid for sites area also great options.
Incorporating 30 minute segments of exercise a few days a week will make a difference in your tolerance for stress.
So friends, we can’t avoid all the stressors but we can make small changes to improve our days and slow down the sensation of “rush” and “not enough time”. Create space in your day for both work and creativity/play/exercise.
You will not regret it!