Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Combat Stress!

When you’re burnt out and stressed out, eat well and stay active. Yet, that’s the last thing you want to do.

However, if you don’t eat well or exercise, you’ll continue to be more stressed out. How do we change this around? How do we get our mind to turn it’s way of thinking to what’s best for us? We know that when we nourish our bodies and stay active, stress is easier to handle. In my book, Feel Fantastic, I go through examples of stress situations that my clients discuss with me everyday, and how we’ve managed to overcome stress. That is how I’ve come to know the problems people go through and given talks on Stress Relieving Strategies.

Let’s start with the type of stress you have in your daily life. There’s the Good Stress. That’s when we’re busy, stimulated, feel in control, excited about our success; life is hectic but planned, and our happiness level is high. This is when we eat well, keep active and go about our life with enthusiasm and excitement.

his is not the stress that bothers us; it’s the Bad Stress. That is when we’re too hectic, frustrated, out of control, miserable and our happiness level has bottomed out.

How do you recognize stress? Here are some of the stressors that may be in your life.
• Relationships: Are you getting married? Divorced? Do you have problems with family members? Friends? Do they make your days unhappy?
• Financial: Are you in debt? Are you heading that way? Do you fear your future income or old age pension?
• Fear: Do you fear change? Do you fear disease, weight gain, food additives, preservatives, biotechnology, supplements?
• Work: Do you dislike going to work everyday? Do you your colleagues annoy or frustrate you? Have you lost any excitement about your projects?
• Vacation: Can you afford the cost? Do you get along with the family members and friends who share holiday time with you? What is your alternative?
• Hectic: Do you have too much planned for the day, every day? Are you trying to be superman/woman?
• Illness: Is someone ill in the family? How is everyone handling the pain? Are there friends you can call on for help? • Other: List your other problems.

Your Reactions to Stress

Stress can appear in different forms. With some people it could be pain, with others it could be headaches, fatigue, irritability, loss of sleep, muscle tension or depression.

How does stress manifest itself with you? For example: “I get headaches. On a scale of 1 – 10 the headaches are about 8. They appear once a week, after an argument with my teenage daughter. It lasts 2 hours.”

Make a list of your reactions to Bad Stress:
• You eat poorly: increasing your consumption of comfort foods such as sweets, cookies, chips, bread and pastries. None=1 Extreme = 10 Your rating =
• You stop exercising. The last thing in your mind is to be active. You would rather just hide in a corner and be alone. None=1 Extreme = 10 Your rating =
• You drink more alcohol. You find you need to have a drink to slow you down, sometimes a second drink or more. You lose count. None=1 Extreme = 10 Your rating =
• You increase the number of cigarettes you smoke, or start smoking again. You know this is destructive, but it worked in the past. You know it only works for a short time and then you’re miserable afterwards. None=1 Extreme = 10 Your rating =
• You find your productivity at home and work is decreased. You cannot get the stressors out of your mind. They interfere with your concentration and the energy you need to function. None=1 Extreme = 10 Your rating =
• You are emotionally drained. Someone or something is using all your emotions and filling your mind with them. None=1 Extreme = 10 Your rating =

This is when we have to turn things around and it’s difficult, seemingly unobtainable.

Stress Relieving Strategies

Let’s look at how we can handle our stressors. Easier said than done when you’re in a dark hole and digging down. It takes time and practice. And what have you got to lose? You can’t spend the next few years digging deeper when you could start climbing out of this hole.

Ask yourself, what if you made a change, what is the worst thing that could happen? Would you rather stay as you are for the rest of your life, or take a chance on making a change?

Is everything you do vitally important? Can some things wait until tomorrow, the weekend, next month? Don’t think I don’t understand.

When you’re in your late 50’s, been divorced for over 25 years, brought up three children, and lived in three countries, you’ve had stress – big time! T

he four methods that have worked best for my audiences are: Relax, Eat Well, Be Active and Have Fun. Be patient, it’s not going to happen today, it’s just going to start turning around this week.

• Go to your list of stressors, and see what you can change – your situation or your attitude?
• Spend half an hour alone every day with no people around you, no phone calls, no music, no television, totally in peace, and think about when you’re the happiest. What has made you happy in the past? How can you get there? What would you need to change?
• Breathe deeply when stressed at work or home. You may need to go outside into the fresh air to take the deep breaths.
• Read. We don’t read enough. Reading is much more relaxing than watching television. Stories can take your mind off your problems. You’ll get so involved in the book; you won’t be able to put it down.
• Yoga or Pilates. If you haven’t tried it, now’s the time. But, who has time? If you have time to stress, you have time to stretch and relax your body and mind.

Eat Well
• Carbohydrate-rich foods increase the serotonin in the brain, resulting in a calming effect. Be sure to plan into your diet:
• Whole grain products
• Fruits
• Vegetables

These foods are also high in Vitamin B. Include the following foods for more of the Vitamin B’s.
• Low fat milk
• Lean meat

Fatty, starchy or sweet comfort foods will make you feel miserable afterwards. Don’t go there when stressed. You’ll feel happier every time you make a better food choice and stick to it.

Be Active
• Walk for 30 minutes a day: Walking is the easiest, least expensive way to be active. You can walk anywhere, anytime, all at once or throughout the day.
• Exercise: Sometimes you may feel too stressed out to work out. Force yourself to get out. You will feel great after you’ve exercised. Think about it. Have you ever worked out and felt low afterwards? No. Exercise stimulates the endorphins in the brain and makes you feel great.
• Swim: Water is relaxing. If you don’t have a pool to use; after your walk have a warm bath and a cup of tea. Or stand in the shower and let the water pour all over you.

Have Fun
• Time management. When you plan your days, you can prioritize the duties you have to do, and fit in activities you enjoy.
• Meet your good friends. Don’t complain about your problems. You may mention your problems only if you think your friends have a solution, and you are going to listen to their advice, otherwise stop moaning. You need to be fun yourself.
• Laugh. Mix with friends who make you laugh out loud. When last did you do that?
• Go to a movie, one that makes you come out feeling good.
• Get a pet. Studies show that pets can lower stress. Wouldn’t you like to see a happy dog’s face and wagging tail whenever you enter your home?
• Think of yourself. If you only care about others, it’s time to do a few nice things for yourself. Have a massage, manicure (yes, guys too), make your favorite meal.
• Be patient. This is a learning process. Changes don’t happen overnight, sometimes it takes months and years. Fortunately, you learn with age. Time heals, if you let it.

After all this, you may feel you need professional help. Find a psychologist for mind problems and a dietitian for food problems (www.eatright.org). Life is good!