Are you coping with stress? Can stress be a good thing?
In today’s day and age coping with stress is part of daily life. It is virtually impossible to live a life without some form of stress management activities, unless you live a monastic life, with very little connection to the outside world.
Can coping with stress be good for us? What causes stress?
Ideally, everyone should have some amount of “good” stress in their lives, but too little stress can result in boredom, lack of energy and vitality. As we begin to age, it is even more important to expose ourselves to a certain amount of stimuli to keep our brains healthy and reverse aging.
What is good stress?
Good stress can be be having an interesting project you are working on, a party that you are planning, going on a vacation or visiting a new place, learning a new instrument, managing your and your families schedule. All of these things provide a certain level of stress in your life, but it also feeds a part of your well-being that is important to you health and coping with stress is not that challenging.
For example, learning a new instrument, or taking a public speaking class while can be a stressful event in the beginning. It also boosts your self confidence, teaches you a new skill, and exposes you to new people. All of which can be extremely gratifying. When you have an ideal amount of “good” stress in your life, generally your senses and your mind are engaged, you feel at ease and more alive.
What is bad stress?
I hesitate using the word “bad” because it generates such a visceral response from people. In reality there is no set universal “bad” stress. For example, I may find that speaking in front of an audience is stressful. But another individual public speaking may be a source of exhilaration. Stress is extremely subjective and coping with stress is different for everyone. Click here to read more on life stressors
Life balance questions:
1) Do you enjoy what you are doing on a day to day basis?
2) Do you give yourself plenty of down time in between stressful work projects, home projects, or life events?
3) Do you get plenty of sleep at night and wake up rested and ready for the day?
4) Do you feel you have a strong connection with your family?
5) Do you feel you have a strong connection with your community and social circles?
6) Do you have time to do some type of exercise for 20-30 minutes a day?
If you answered “yes” to a majority of the above questions you probably are coping with stress in your life in a healthy way. If you answered “no” to some of the questions read and answer the next set of questions.
1) Do you find it hard to plan and take vacations because you feel like you have too much going on?
2) Do you find that going to the doctor for a routine check list gets put on the bottom of your to do list and generally doesn’t get done? 3) Do you find that you are constantly canceling or changing personal appointments?
4) Do you come home from a long work day and the only thing you want to do is “veg” or “zone” out in front of the television?
5) Do you get angered easily if something doesn’t go as plan or do you feel your patience is low with people that you are close with?
6) Do you find that it is hard to sit still in complete silence and do nothing for more than 15 minutes?
If you answered “yes” to a majority of the above questions you probably need to take sometime to make some lifestyle changes to reduce stress in your life.
Uninterrupted, excessive stress eventually exhausts your adrenal glands. They become unable to produce adequate cortisol which can lead to chronic fatigue, heart attacks, depression and hormonal imbalances.
Coping with stress, how much is too much?
Generally, we live in a culture where we have the tend have a tendency to pile too many things onto our plates. This is when a “good” stress can become too much. Or in reality if you are too stressed in other areas of your life, “good” stressors tend to take a back seat. For example, when you are extremely stressed or spread thin, you feel as though you don’t have the time to plan a gathering with friends, or you don’t take a class to learn something new because it is too overwhelming to even consider. This often time is a indicator that we have too much stress in our lives.
What are some stress management activities that you can do?
#1 slow down to speed up
This one sounds a little off the wall. Take some time to reflect on what you do on a day to day basis. Do you find that you are having to take lots of time to sift through old e-mails looking for a contact because your e-mails are not organized? What about your desk? Is it cluttered with lots of piles that you typically lose things? Slowing down to speed up, is the concept of taking the time to create a system, clear out the clutter (that physically and energetically take up space). Take a day to organize your office, e-mails, notes, computer etc. once it is organized create a system so it doesn’t get cluttered again.
#2 uplug after a big project or event
There are times in life when you are going to busier than other times and coping with stress is much harder. Such as getting married, having a child, moving, a big work project, house project etc. Make sure that you create down time after the project is complete. We have a tendency to finish a project, then rather than take down time move onto the next project without missing a beat. While this may be a social or culturally value, it doesn’t allow your body to recover from the high stress and once again over time can cause adrenal exhaustion.
#3 simply your day
Start your day with 10-15 minutes of planning and reflection. Rather than just jump into responding to e-mails and calls. Take 10 minutes to look at your schedule and write out your to do list. Determine what are the priorities and do those first. Don’t let yourself get distracted by the internet, idle chit chat, e-mails or incoming phone calls. Schedule a time each day (maybe in the mid morning and late afternoon) to return phone calls and e-mails. This will increase your efficiency and let people know these are the times that you are available.
#4 schedule down time
Like anything in life, if it is not on your schedule you won’t do it. While it is easy to put self care last on your list if you want to balance your stress levels you need to schedule down time. Schedule your doctors appointments in advance, book a monthly massage (pre-pay for them so you have the self discipline to go), figure out which weekly yoga class you will attend, schedule in time to read and write. Make sure that you have one day a week that is structure free. You are free to do whatever you choose that day. Too much structure too much of the time will overstimulate your brain.
#5 Get plenty of rest, eat good whole foods, and move!
These are some basics tenets to good health that over time have taken a back seat to over-scheduled days. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night, try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up a the same time. This will set your body clock.
Eat small healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Eating often will prevent your blood sugar level from dropping and keep you alert and energized.
Take some time to move your body for 20 minutes a day. It could be gardening, going for a walk, throwing the ball with your child or dog. Get moving!
As with anything in life, coping with stress and managing your stress level is an intentional process. It will take some time to reprogram years of habits and conditioning. Taking the time to manage your health and stress today will mean that you will live a vibrant and healthy life for years to come. Click here to get more tips on the best ways to relax.