Stress and anxiety? It always shows up unannounced.
Forest Gump said it best.
Here’s an extreme example of how stress works in your body. But it get’s the point across. And some good need to know information, so hang in there.
So this is the situation: You come home after a tough week of work and find your street jammed with firetrucks and emergency lights. Firemen are scrambling to hook up hoses. Onlookers mingle in tight whisper-groups.
A funny smell is in the air…
Your heart beats faster as you realize the commotion is focused all around your apartment. “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”, you mantra to yourself. Spoke is billowing from an upstairs window!
Is this real or a dream?
Next you think of your computer, photo albums, your guppies Jennifer and Justin…
Then it hits you. The first floor looks safe! Maybe there’s time save them!
Fight or flight!
These are the basic instincts we face in a stressful situation. Now it’s your decision…
Fight– You race in, grab as much stuff as you can, and lunge out without tripping.
Flight– You cry hysterically, collapse to the ground, and beg for someone to help you.
You definitely don’t want to be this guy…
We’re all thinking the same thing, right?
But here’s the real truth. Our fight or flight choices aren’t only a result of the moment. They also depend on how we’ve been handling stress the 120 hours prior to our barbecued apartment.
If we’re already red-lining with anxieties when we arrive at Guppy Jen and Justin’s fateful moment, our reservoirs of emotional strength will be of little help to us.
Why? Stress is like an airplane. As a positive force, it can propel us skyward to accomplish a project, make a great speech, start a job change, plan a wedding, or orchestrate an unforgettable party.
But imagine that once your stress-plane is in the air, you can’t bring it down again. It soars onward and onward, engines roaring, wings vibrating, fuel gauge dropping…until the inevitable crash.
An overload of stress wears us down and renders us ‘ineffective’ when the bigger emergencies arrive.
Stress also increases the risk of health conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma. And don’t forget the other scary effects;
• Emotional and mental exhaustion
• Sleep deficiency
• Depression and anxiety
• Problem solving difficulties
Okay, okay, okay! Just reading about stress can cause it!
So lets get to the cures.
You can read the ending of the fire-story later.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated outfit change and drive to the gym. Slap on some earphones, lock yourself in the bedroom, and play your favorite dance tunes. Release those endorphins any way you can!
2. Meditate, Relax and Breath
15 to 30 minutes a day, let your thoughts run free, pray, or imagine only good. Abdominal breathing exercises have been proven to give immediate reductions to your heart rate and blood pressure.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Here’s a list of stress reducing foods: Blueberries, almonds, pistachios, cashews, all sorts of seeds, green leafy veggies, avocados, yogurt, turkey breast, salmon, and our personal favorite, dark chocolate.
Here’s a list of foods that breed stress: Salty snacks, high cholesterol meals, (fast food is basically poison), caffeinated drinks, alcohol, hydrogenated oil, trans-fats, and sugar.
4. Sleep and stay rested.
Getting plenty of sleep is a tough one since a side effect of stress is insomnia.
Some hints to success: Use bedtime rituals that (like Pavlov’s dogs) pattern your mind for ‘shut down’. Take a warm bath, do your breathing or meditation, and avoid exercise within three hours of bedtime.
5. Talk and Communicate.
Connect with others. Sharing stress and concerns with family and friends is a proven aid in relieving anxiety. Communication with wise people can be an amazing stress reliever.
6. Organize and Prioritize.
Organization helps us feel in control and gives a sense of well-being. Lists are imperative to accomplishing control. Set limits for yourself! In stressful times making an elaborate meal, accepting an extra job assignment, planning a party, or cleaning a closet are not smart choices.
New thoughts and twists on the classics!
Social media may be entertaining but it can bring you down faster than a speeding bullet. Researchers have found that spending too much time on social media can cause depression and restlessness.
Cell phones and Internet are channels for stress. Keep them silent to stay in the moment and relax. And they rob us useful time. Instead we could be exercising, meditating, organizing, or spending quality time with loved ones.
2. Turn off the TV!
Sure. If you stick to nature channels, you’ll be okay. Otherwise, you may be storing up more stress. Commercials are geared to stimulate desires for things we can’t afford or even want. AND… it’s another time-stealer.
3. Listen to Music.
1000 people in 30 countries were asked what methods they used relax. 56 percent chose music. 65 percent of North Americans ranked it first.
4. Fight Insecurity.
Be in the moment with positive thoughts. How? Evaluate a stressful event and look into the future.
Is this situation really that big in the scheme of things?
Will it have a huge effect on me 5 years from now?
If not, don’t let it rob your energy. Focus on positive changes.
Don’t imagine the worst-case scenario, envision the best.
5. Vitamin B.
These little guys are super heroes. B’s help the body make new cells
and keeps our bodies function at their best. Especially our brains and nervous system. They also protect our immune system and help fight fatigue. What are indications that you have a vitamin B deficiency?
Foods rich in vitamin B include: Liver, fish, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, egg yolks, steak, low-fat milk and yogurt, swiss cheese, and of course, dark leafy vegetables.
6. Passion Flower
There have been clinical studies that show this natural treatment reduces anxiety, helps with insomnia and promotes calmness. But more tests are needed to solidly establish its effectiveness. Nevertheless, there are some very loyal users who insist it’s an extremely effective “anti-stresser.”
NOTE: Not recommend for nursing or pregnant moms, or children. Its suggested that if you are taking other medications, you should consult your doctor first.
7. Guided or Focused Imagery
From WebMD: “Guided Imagery is a program of directed thoughts and suggestions that guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. This state may aid healing, learning, creativity, and performance. It may help you feel more in control of your emotions, which improve your attitude, health, and sense of well-being.”
You can use almost anything to do this including tapes, music, and images. The goal is to achieve a relaxed state where you mind has found a comfortable place to dwell.
NOTE: For my focused imagery, I’ve created Pinterest boards with thousands of feel-good images whose sole purpose is to change a bad frame of mind into a good one. It works for me every time. Check out my Pinterest account and skip down till you find the boards that start with the word “Happy”.
8. Massage and Aromatherapy.
It’s an anti-stress method that’s thousands of years old and used nearly every country of the world.
If you don’t have the mullah to spare, ask your significant other for ‘massage exchanges’. Or, take a hot bath with scented oils of lavender, cypress, or rosemary.
9. Become a Problem Solver
List the things that cause you anxiety. Select the ones you can easily solve and begin to fix them. Fixing your small problems will give you the courage you need to solve the bigger ones. Start your plan of action and tackle what you can!
Some additional coping responses from WebMd and JW.Org.
Spend more time enjoying your family
Delegate or share household chores
Know your own physical and emotional limitations
Set realistic goals; do not be a perfectionist
Set aside some time for yourself
Play with a pet
Laugh or cry
Go out with a friend (shopping, movie, dining).
Take a bath or shower
Write, paint, or do other creative activities
Get outdoors to enjoy nature
Garden or make home repairs
Seek counseling if you continue to struggle with stress.
Here’s the end of the story:
As someone who now controls stress levels 24/7, you’re logical and controlled when you arrive at your flaming apartment, so you grab a fire hose and smother the blaze yourself.
Fish are safe, albums are ok, computer is good. Now you offer to take the firemen out for a beer.
Tomorrow’s another day and now?
You’re this guy!