How to Instantly Bust Stress

All of us experience stress in some form and some stress is actually a good thing. In small doses motivates us to reach goals, boosts memory and kicks in our flight or fight response, protecting us from danger. It enables us to run when someone is chasing us or hop out of the way of an oncoming car. It’s also thought that a little stress can boost heart function and boost the immune system.

On the other hand, chronic stress is damaging to our bodies. It can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, weight gain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal disease and even heart disease.

Chronic stress can feel like a familiar part of our lives. Often times we don’t even realize we’re stressed. Typical signs include:

• Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
• Get sick more often with colds
• Body aches
• Other illnesses like autoimmune diseases flare up
• Headaches
• Irritability
• Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake
• Changes in appetite
• More angry or anxious than usual

So how can you ease symptoms of stress? You can choose foods that manage stress, and no, I’m not talking about doughnuts, mac and cheese or other traditional comfort foods. Many healthy foods boost immunity, ease stress and lift our mood. Check out my previous blog on Got Stress? for foods that soothe.

Some easy ways to manage stress that work almost immediately:

Breathing – Take a slow, deep breath inhaling through your nose and feel your belly expand. Slowly release the breath, exhaling through your mouth. Do 10 of these breaths for almost instant calm.

Take a Break – Step away from your stressor for a few minutes. If you are able, leave and take a 10 or 15 minute walk. Can’t leave? Close your eyes for a few minutes and take a mental vacation.

Exercise – Physical activity is beneficial for both the mind and the body. The endorphins that are produced can last for several hours, leaving us happier and more relaxed.

Meditate – Meditation can promote feelings of calm and clarity. Find it hard to quiet your mind? Try progressive relaxation, consciously relax each part of your body, beginning at your toes and ending at the top of your head.

Yoga – You don’t need to be super flexible to do a few calming poses. Here’s a sequence to bust anxiety that you can do in your chair.

Manage Your Time – Make a plan or schedule of your priorities and focus on getting those done. Let go of things you are able to delegate and say no to non-urgent requests. Not interested in attending an event? Just say “no, thank you.”

Making time for relaxation and activities that make you happy can go a long way to reducing stress.

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Could You Toss Out the Ice Cream? Old Habits and Mindset

DQ2A lot of the things I coach people on I also struggle with. It’s hard to throw away food, it’s hard to not be impatient and to want to see progress more quickly than I am. I split an ice cream with my husband last week. The portions were way too large and I really didn’t want to toss away 1/2 of my treat. We were nowhere near home so a lid would not have helped.

One of my clients struggles with the same thing, although he laughed when I said I split my ice cream. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to do that and he would have eaten the treat whether or not he was sick of it. I’ve been there. It’s hard to change the mindset that you grew up with. Don’t waste food and finish what’s on your plate.

Another client is frustrated when she makes poor choices. It doesn’t happen every day but once in a while, when she has a bad day, she reaches for comfort. I find myself doing that. I was angry and standing in the kitchen in front of the fridge. As I stood there I stopped and asked myself what exactly I wanted and why. Instead of grabbing chocolate I went for frozen berries. They’re cold and sweet with a satisfying texture.

It took a while to get to the point of realizing I am not going to eat 3 scoops of ice cream and feel good. It took practice to recognize that I’m grabbing for food when I’m not hungry. And even longer to make other choices, many of which don’t include food. A walk, some breathing time, a hug or playing with dog go a long way to changing my mood. Plus I am never annoyed with myself for walking or playing with the dog!

I like to keep in mind a quote my yoga teacher once told me about yoga: “it’s called a practice, not a perfect.” It’s good to keep that in mind about life in general. Some days we are going to make better choices than others. Keep practicing and you eventually get better at it.