I’ve been in hand-to-hand combat the last couple weeks against the “Lilliputians” – those little things that in isolation are no big deal, but when they start to mount one on top of the other, especially in a short amount of time, they get ya. And, even the most “Well-Intended” like myself are not immune to the resulting sleepless night, frustration-venting, and Goldfish-binging breakdown. That said, there are a list of tricks I’ve learned through health coach education and my own wellness practices that help me take on the battle with the greatest hope of swift victory. I’ll share just a few that helped me this go-round.
- Deep breathe from your diaphragm. When we’re stressed we often breathe too much from the top of our chest (which also creates neck and shoulder tension.) But when you breathe from your diaphragm (literally letting your belly move up and down when you put your hands on it) it communicates to your nervous system that you’re safe (ever watched a baby breathe before? Notice that their tummy moves up and down?) This will help your body get back to that restful zone it needs to operate properly rather than letting these little things stack up and keep you in your “fight of flight” zone – because let’s be honest, that annoying email shouldn’t be the same to your body as a tiger leaping at you…but too often we let it be the case sending our body into a long-term, imbalanced chemical environment.
- Go for a walk. When you’re overwhelmed, the last thing you may feel you have energy for is a workout. You are literally expending all your extra energy to deal with your perceived stress and pressure and sure don’t want to evaporate the last bit of fuel in your tank leaving you with nothing. I hear you, I’ve been there. But, what I can generally still pull off is a brisk walk outdoors, and I’m always better for it. The mental and physical benefits you’ll receive from the reduction in your adrenaline and cortisol, and your production of good mood enhancers is worth it. But you don’t have to take my word for it, here’s what Harvard Medical School has to say.
- Protect and enhance your sleep. In the past, my #1 mode of coping with stress was to hit happy hour with friends after work. But the reality is, you’re gaining short term relief but likely exacerbating your problems. More specifically, with the booze in your system, you’re wrecking your shot at the true, restorative sleep you need to solve your problems most effectively and reset your body back to a less “red zone.” You’re also likely flooding your gut with extra sugar and empty calories when you’re digestion is already compromised from your stress hormones throwing your body into further chemical imbalance (booooooo!). And, I’ll put a bet down that you’re also waking up in the night because your mind is racing and so you decide to pass the time by looking at your phone – I’m sure you already know that’s a no-no because the blue light has just told your body to turn off the melatonin it needs to sleep (details here.) Not great, Bob. So here’s what I DO recommend when you’re on this Lilliputian battlefield:
- Trade in the booze this evening for a Goodnight Golden Milk or see if a magnesium supplement drink is right for you (note: I’m not a doctor nor am I prescribing a supplement here, I’m just suggesting you do a little research on it for yourself – a great article is linked here.) I have quite a few different types of magnesium I’ve tried under doctor supervision as most people are deficient in this relaxation mineral and there are a few different forms of magnesium, but I have also had this Natural Calm in the past which I get at Whole Foods and find it helpful.
- Put your phone in the other room tonight and when you wake up channel your inner Elsa singing, “Let it goooooo, let it gooooo…”. Or, just get up and do some meditative breathing or write what’s on your mind long-hand on a piece of paper until you’re ready to settle back down.
- Get to bed early. Try not to stay up late stewing on your fleeting issues. Tuck it in for the night and try again tomorrow – perhaps things will look a little bit different to you in the morning.
- Nourish your body with the good foods and avoid temptation of the bad. When I’m stressed, carbs are my craving of choice. No one loves a bagel like I do – seriously, it would be on my final meal request list. But, I’ve had to bid adieu to the daily bagel habit I used to have in favor of a more happy and balanced mind and body which helps me perform better when stress comes my way. And the past couple weeks I tried to get extra clean with homemade smoothies, salads, and plenty of water and I cut back on my daily coffee (1 cup instead of 2 – caffeine further messes with your adrenals.) Now, if @#$s gets REAL bad, eff it, have your cheat meal and savor every damn calorie. But, I’m talking ONE meal, not a full landslide, my friend. Your best bet is to really stick to the clean choices – things without packaging and labels, or some other more specific ideas here.
Now I could go on and on with some other tips that relate to talking things out with friends, going into a creative zone to make that time for some self-care and such, but it just wasn’t the week I had. These 4 key tips above were my low-hanging fruit this time and I’m feeling better equipped to tackle these (first world) challenges on my plate and come out the other side unscathed and back in balance. I’d love to hear your favorite tips for dealing with stress too! Feel free to comment below.
Onward my fellow soldiers…