Welcome to the heart of November! Next week is Thanksgiving (I kid you not), which means that we are standing on the edge of “The Holiday Season.” Those three little words used to make the majority of people feel psyched and happy. In today’s America, most folks I meet say those words with an eye-rolling tone (you know, the tone that comes out of teenager mouths when they are giving you the patented teenager eye roll). This three-part blog series on STRESS is intended to help bring some “happy” back into your holidays, and to hopefully serve you FOR LIFE (double meaning intended).
Last post, which was #1 of this 3-part series, we explored WHY we should be concerned about our rampant negative stress, and I provided you with the top 5 things that unmanaged stress does to damage our health. This edition, and the next, we’ll explore the HOW…what you can do about it. Today we’re all about STRESS MANAGEMENT. And in the third edition, I’ll give you some pointers on how things could’ve gone much better for the Wicked Witch of the West, if she’d had RESILIENCE!
Here’s the thing. We definitely don’t have control, for the most part, of what happens in the people, and in the world, around us. And then, we often react from a place of fear (“OMG!!! I’m going to be late for the meeting because of this dumb traffic! Aaahhhh!”), out of habit. While we may REACT in the moment, in a way that doesn’t serve us; we can then take a few breaths and RESPOND, in our minds, in a way that is more realistic, and doesn’t negatively affect every single aspect of our BodyMindSpirit health (Slow, deep breath. Slow, deep breath. “Okay, although it’s not ideal that I’m going to be late, I can’t change that now. No one, including me, will die from my lateness.”).
This simple exercise changes everything. Getting perspective and giving yourself a reality-check stops the stress response in its tracks.
There are also practices you can incorporate into your life that will both increase your ability to handle stress, AND decrease your reactivity to those inevitable perceived life stressors. What follows are my Top 5 practices for stress management. Please note that these are in no particular order (ie: not listed in order of increasing or decreasing effectiveness….they’re all effective!).
Top 5 Mind Savvy® Practices to Manage Stress
- Create an Food Sass® 80/20 Lifestyle. (note: sugar is the #1 food enemy that lends to stress)
- Practice good sleep habits. Honor sleep time, every night, in the same way you’d honor an important daily meeting.
- Stay engaged with a joyful movement routine. (some call this exercise)
- Create a daily practice for inducing the Relaxation Response. (meditation, mindfulness, visualization, time spent in nature, etc.) Meditation is a game-changer! I encourage you to check out the Headspace website, and it’s accompanying app, and create a do-able meditation habit for yourself. Their tagline is true: “Brilliant things happen in calm minds.” Some folks find it easier to start with a mindfulness practice, and I invite you to check out THIS guide by the folks at Relax Like a Boss (gotta love that name).
- Breathe slowly, deeply, and mindfully for 15 seconds…in the moment…when stress arises. Like in the “late for meeting” example above. (This is like “Relaxation Response speed-dating” and changes your brain chemistry for the better!)
“Wait, Laurie Warren. What on earth is the “Relaxation Response?!”
Great question. It’s when you sit in your La-Z-boy recliner with a beer. Kidding! Seriously; stop jumping up and down and fist-bumping yourself. For the real answer, please read on.
In the first blog of this series, I explored the Stress Response, and what happens to our BodyMindSpirit under chronic stress. And guess what’s fun?! The Stress Response has an opposing, mitigating response, called The Relaxation Response, as coined by Dr. Herbert Benson. It creates rest and tranquility in our nervous system, as opposed to the “fight or flight” in our nervous system. It also helps promote balance, both in the moment and cumulatively over time, in our nervous system and in our whole sweet bod.
So, I encourage you to re-educate your nervous system in how to respond to all of the perceived stresses that are part of our modern lives. You could start by just choosing one thing from the list above and doing it regularly for the next 4 weeks (21-28 days to make a new habit!). Then choose another and add that one in. Bring on the Chillaxation Response (aka: Relaxation Response)! Let’s aim for true HAPPY Holidays.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series, on Nov 28th, which will outline something even MORE powerful than Stress Management. Whaaaaaaat?!?! More tools in your toolbox for creating vibrant health!
p.s. Looking for some great Food Sass® Thanksgiving dishes? I invite you to give these a whirl:
Mashed Cauliflower (don’t be put off by the name…the word on the street: “AH-mazing!”)
Sweet Potato Heaven
With love & chillaxation,