Manage Your Stress, 8 tips I learned from Thrive

STRESS. It is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to keep the bad rap that it commonly holds. Last night I learned a few ways to make stress work for me not against me, and I can’t wait to share what the experts at Thrive taught my Wellness Challenge participants last night at our private workshop.

First of all, what is stress?
Most simply put, stress is anything that takes you off cruise control. It’s anything that puts a ripple in your plan, throws you off, presses your button. You get the point? Stress can be physical or perceived. Meaning it can be you’re being chased by a tiger (physical circumstance with a physiological response) or you’re heading off to your in-laws (all in your perception here).

Stress affects us.
Common behavioral responses to stress include overeating, isolating ourselves, drinking or smoking, compulsive behaviors. Common side effects of stress include fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability. Stress can also compromise our immune systems, mood, weight management, and sleep.

Sounds so fun, yea? Probably not. But I have good news! By making a few changes and becoming more aware of our perceptions and mindset, our stressors (triggers to stress), and our stress response (behaviors, physiological) we can get better at managing our “stress”.

It’s important to first understand you are not a victim of your stress, and your stressors don’t make you stressed. It’s all about how you respond to the stress, how you manage it, and how you perceive it. Make no misconception here though, stress is not something you can manage overnight, and it’s not something you can (or should) completely get rid of. However, you can make small changes that will accumulate into big changes to help you feel better with your stress and help you make your stress work to your benefit (because a little bit of healthy stress actually motivates us and helps us do our best!)

So what can we do? Here are a few simple tips to address and begin managing stress.
1. Exercise. Move it! Everyday. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes or walking in place while you watch T.V. .. start somewhere, anywhere, and commit to moving your body a little bit every day
2. Eat good food. For me, good food = a good mood. When I eat better I just feel better. It never fails. Take a look at your diet – are you eating a lot of packaged foods? Sugary foods/drinks? Try to swap your processed foods for fresh fruits and veggies and see how you feel.
3. Sleep! I know you’ve heard it before, but 7-8 hours really does good things for you. Seem impossible? Try going to sleep 5 minutes earlier each night until you make it to a bedtime that gives you a full 7-8 hours.
4. Meditate. Seriously, it’s like pressing the restart button on your computer, it helps you reset, restart, and refresh. Start with 1 minute a day and build up from there. Trust me you won’t regret this one.
5. Reframe your thoughts. Changing the way you think and perceive circumstances, situations, and events can change the way your body responds to the ‘stressor’. I like to “Stop, Flip it, and Reverse it” as Missy Elliott would recommend. Stop the thought, flip it to a positive, and throw it in reverse! Back up, and reapproach the situation.
6. Don’t approach all encounters with an agenda. Keep an open mind, let things be how they will be, and go with the flow sometimes!
7. Understand your stress response. What do you do and how do you feel when you are experiencing stress? Take some time to identify how you can notice when you’re stressed (what behaviors do you exhibit? How do your eating and sleep patterns change?) when you begin to realize you are stressed you are able to manage it.
8. Make Small Changes. Remember, you can’t do it all, and you definitely can’t do it all at once! Prioritize and start small, break larger changes into smaller bite size pieces and work on them slowly.

What are your stressors?
What do you do to manage your stress?
Do you notice that your diet affects your stress?

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