Feeling out of shape after the holidays? Did your New Year’s resolutions involve a plan to get more fit — work out more often, have better nutrition, etc.? JUST AS IMPORTANT and often far easier to achieve is stress reduction which contributes to your physical health and well-being (and feeling “fit”).
60% to 80% of medical problems are stress-related. That is, they are either 1) caused by stress, 2) aggravated by stress, or 3) the condition itself creates stress due to the limitations it puts on you or due to the worry the condition causes.
You most likely have read many articles on stress reduction. It is my aim, rather than repeating other good methods, to make suggestions that are usable immediately but not meant to replace others you know. This is your “jump-start” for 2016.
The important thing with resolutions is keeping them simple. That is because it is a set-up for failure to expect too much of yourself — especially if you have failed with resolutions in the past. And, remember that success breeds success — getting started is the hardest part and doing more will then be likely to follow! So, if you plan to resolve to do just one of the following it is my recommendation that you do #1 as it is essential before you can be successful with the others anyway (and, sometimes the rest takes care of itself!).
1. Tune into yourself – It only takes a moment to notice your stress before it escalates. That is, it is possible to learn to detect stress early on merely by telling yourself you can be aware of it in its early stages and that it is very worthwhile to do so. This helps you utilize your stress relieving methods when they can help the most.
2. (Once you are using #1) Notice that there is a pattern to your stress – You are likely to be stressed most frequently in particular places, with particular people, while doing particular activities, or (strange as it may seem) while thinking particular thoughts.
3. Think of the stress reduction methods that have worked for you in the past – Writing a list of these is sometimes helpful. Use the one that seems the most logical or the easiest at any given time.
4. Prevention is better than after-the-fact techniques whenever possible so employ just one for starters – Examples:
● Getting up earlier so that you are less rushed can create a calmer start to the day
● Stopping for just a moment to prioritize and plan can be well-used time and can reduce that harried feeling
● Saying “no” rather than trying to be Superperson when you’re on the verge of being overloaded
5. Early intervention is the next best thing to prevention – That is, the earlier you do something to reduce your stress the quicker, more effective and longer-lasting the result. So, even if you are already beginning to feel tense, irritable, etc. employ techniques that have worked for you in the past at this point in time rather than waiting until you feel overwhelmed, have a headache or stomach distress or worse.
6. Breathe deeply and slowly and exhale completely 3 times – This gives you an opportunity to clear your head and let go of muscle tension a bit. It will then be easier to decide what to do next.
7. Take a 2 or 3 minute break from whatever you are doing from time to time – This helps you regain perspective and gives you the opportunity to make reasonable choices.
8. If you feel stressed from trying to do too much in too little time tell yourself that you can do less in order to have the time to “smell the roses.” If this adjustment is difficult you may want to question yourself as to why this is and to do some thinking about what you want from life and how important you really consider your health to be.
9. Talk about your stress to at least one person you trust and who you think really listens and cares about how you feel. – This support has the ability to lighten your load.
10. Even if you are deeply entrenched in your stress you CAN feel better. Take care of that headache or stomach distress your usual manner or apologize to the person you treated poorly because of your stress-level and promise yourself you are going to try to do #1 (and maybe other methods) more often. – You will most likely be rewarded with improved health and also, better interpersonal relations (and will probably find yourself feeling happier and enjoying life more as well!).