Show me an adult who hasn’t suffered from stress this year. I don’t think there is one.
When under stress our common sense often goes out the window and we fall back into bad habits more easily. Here are a few reminders of simple actions to take to gain your cool and to regain control.
1. Take Back Your Power & Regain Control
When we are in stressful situations or in a stressful mindset, we develop tunnel vision and our reason goes out the window. We are no longer using the rational part of our brains to make decisions but the reactionary part (the one stimulated in fight or flight situations – the limbic system). This happens unconsciously and biologically; we actually get hijacked emotionally. The good news is that you can regain control through:
- Self-awareness: Stop, breath and notice without judging.*
- Identify what you can and can’t control
- Take small steps in addressing the things you can control (don’t plan to run a marathon in a month if you haven’t started training)
*Self-awareness is the most challenging part but it is a muscle that everyone can train. Start by using techniques such as conscious journaling or meditation. Meditation trains you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and to detach from them in order to be able to have time to think before you react.
Sleep is essential to stress management as it allows you to recuperate, be more alert, be energized and emotionally balanced to take on the day. Most of us need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, everyone is different. Getting in the hours your individual body needs is the difference between feeling rested and tired.
If sleep is a problem for you as it often is in moments of stress first focus on proper sleep hygiene. My number one tip is to keep a regular bed time schedule and to create a relaxing routine half an hour before bed. Although this sounds overly simple, it is important for our circadian rhythm to follow a daily schedule and if your bedtime is fixed it is much easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. My last tip on this matter is taking a hot bath, the drop in temperature after getting out of the bath gives your circadian rhythm a nudge to go into sleep mode.
Our nervous system is like our physical body. When we do a lot of physical exercise, our body needs to recuperate. By providing it rest not only will we be equipped to face our next challenge but we will have built more endurance for the upcoming challenges. In order for rest to truly be effective, you must believe you deserve a break (and you do – we all do).
4. Sip some tea & Reduce the caffeine
Although caffeine does have some positive health effects it also spikes cortisol (a stress hormone) therefore can cause anxiety and can have negative effects on quality and quantity of sleep especially when taken too late in the day. Remember that chocolate, many soft and energy drinks and tea also contain caffeine.
What I usually recommend to my clients is to replace the afternoon coffees with herbal tea or even green tea, which contains less caffeine and contains antioxidants which fight against the destructive effects of stress. In terms of daytime herbal teas, think:
- Adaptogene plants (such as tulsi tea) and
- Ginger and turmeric blends
Reducing caffeine also means avoiding the vicious stimulant- downer cycle that we often fall into; when we are wound up in the evening we reach for alcohol to calm us and then in the morning we feel groggy because of the alcohol so we reach for the coffee, chocolate, sweets. And the cycle continues…
Research actually shows that exercises reduces stress, anxiety and muscle tension as effectively as a minor tranquillizer! Exercise increases the secretion of endorphins, the body’s natural feel good chemicals, helping boost your mood naturally. We talked about the other benefits on your mood in last week’s post.
Mindset is so important when it comes to stress management, feeling we are in control and are masters of our own fate is one of the strongest drivers of success and well-being. By gaining self-awareness and approaching things we can control one step at a time we gradually reinforce a positive mindset and the feeling of control.
For more information don’t hesitate to contact me.