5 Stress Relief Ideas

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One of the factors working against us in weight management is stress.  And we often disregard its profound effect on not only our weight, but also our general health.  Somehow, we seem to think that we can take on all the stressors (work tensions and deadlines, family issues, financial concerns, health problems, you-name-it) and not need some healthy release.  Often the ways that we cope in the short term, which can include alcohol, drugs (prescription or not), zoning out on the couch, overeating, etc. end up becoming part of the larger health problem and eventually cause their own stress.  For example, when we have had a rough day at work, we reach for a glass of wine that in the short-term makes us feel better.  However, as that habit matures, it can grow into more glasses of wine and all that comes with such a habit. It is not a sustainable model for stress relief.

We have to remember that the initial reason that we were reaching for the wine glass had nothing to do with wine, but with stress! 

So here are a few healthy suggestions to deal with stress as efficiently as we can and to make a new habit in our daily routines:

  1. Get physical.  Yes, a workout is great, but what if you can’t get to the gym?  Take a walk, ramping up to a quicker pace as you go.  You can take the whole family!  I have even used this technique in the grocery store where I am walking anyway (and if I miss an aisle, I get more exercise going back).  But, if I can get out in nature, that’s optimal to me. Dance!  Again, a whole family activity can get your heart pumping, your creativity expressing, and your fun factor rising. Do a workout online.  PerfectFitVitrual is a great place to find these and you have so many flavors to choose from.  If you need to, set a timer.  Give yourself a full 15-20 minutes, just to get the kinks out and allow that mind/body connection to help with those feelings and effects of stress.
  2. Use your brain.  Meditation is a proven stress reducer.  Allowing yourself 10 minutes to meditate can improve the quality of your thoughts for the rest of the day.  If you have a spiritual path that calls for prayer, that is also a good way to reframe the thoughts and reduce stress. Feel free to use an app or website that can guide your session. It can help with focusing.
  3. Breathe. Breathing has a direct affect on our nervous systems!  That is great news because it is always available and this is a technique that we can take into our entire day.  Generally, breathing out for a longer amount of time than we breathe in, is a signal for our nervous systems to down regulate.  Try it in a stressful meeting and/or try it as a stand-alone practice with or without your meditation.  (This is one that I have often used while driving.)
  4. Substitute and delay.  Instead of grabbing a glass of wine like we might be used to doing, substitute a soothing herbal tea.  In the place of an unhealthy coping strategy, delay indulging until you have tried a healthier strategy.  It may take a few times of doing both until we feel like the healthier option is working well enough to dispense with the unhealthy.  Be kind to yourself here as you develop a loving discipline about your well-being.
  5. And, as always, ask for support from people you can rely on!  Let them know what you are feeling and going through.  This could include a professional counselor and/or great friends and family who want to see you doing well and feeling healthy.  Please include yourself in that group with your own self talk.  Let it be loving, encouraging, kind, thoughtful and true.  You are an exceptional being and your mental feedback loop needs to reflect your own self-respect and kindness.  I know this one can be a real hurdle, but you are also powerful, so you can do it!

Stress is an actual killer, so we all need to get a handle on it and keep practicing the self care the bring us into a place of more equanimity and down regulation of our nervous systems.  Take a few tries at it!  Love on yourself and invite stress to leave your home.

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