USING A STRESS MANAGEMENT CHECKLIST TO SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS
The funny thing about stress management is that when people are under stress, they genuinely believe there is no time to be healthy, or relax. Yet, a simple 15 minute time investment or an adjustment in attitude is sometimes all it takes to keep it together, and even improve the experience. Interestingly, as little time as there seems to be in a busy, hectic schedule, people seem to find time “managing stress” in ways that actually drain them more, such as taking a cigarette break, having a drink, watching mindless TV, emotional eating or ranting/complaining on the phone or through e-mail.
It’s helpful to actually consider some of things that would truly help, and generate a checklist of stress management choices. The following are five examples of areas where you can choose to support your mental, emotional and physical needs during times of strain. Use these as a check-in tool, to see if you have made choices to support yourself. Even if you think you have zero time to devote to one of these items, you’ll be surprised what a difference investing a few minutes will make on your entire experience of stress:
If your nerves are frayed, the last thing your system needs is excess sensory input. Finding ways to reduce volume, give your eyes a rest, or reduce interaction with others is a great self-preservation technique. Earplugs help as does recognizing over-stimulating situations such as loud movies, video games, busy clubs or restaurants, crowded events. Sometimes it just helps to dim the lights in your space and refuse any noise other than calming music. Even 15 minutes of this can help.
Steering clear of draining relationships
All relationships hold a unique dynamic. Some fill us up with joy and energy, and then there are complicated dynamics with friends and families. If you find you have a few of the latter in your life, you’re not alone. This is the nature of human interaction. If that family event or those passive aggressive exchanges with your oldest pal are going to strain you during a busy stretch, decline invitations or reschedule. It’s okay to be direct and share that you’re feeling maxed-out and are unable to participate. It’s not okay to actually talk to them about how the relationship is draining you. When you’re at your wit’s end, the last thing you need is an emotional confrontation. Save this conversation for another time when you can handle it.
Do you have a talent or hobby that really fill your heart and make you feel alive? Expressing yourself through whichever that is: singing, dancing, cooking, artwork, music, yoga, writing, gardening is vital to your being and your sense of balance. If you can preserve a segment of time to express through your preferred medium, you will be re-filling your cup indeed.
Swap coffee for life-giving fuel
Nourishing foods make a world of difference on your ability to cope. Take your adrenal glands, for example, they produce the hormone adrenaline, which puts your system into fight-or-flight mode. This in itself is a strain on your system, yet if you’re rushed and subsisting on sugary snacks and coffee, you’re basically playing head games with your adrenal glands, not to mention insulin levels. It really helps to limit your caffeine and refined sugar intake, no matter how easy and quick and satisfying these short-lived boosts are. Your body and brain need high-quality fuel to handle strains effectively. Adequate protein, green vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds are the key. If you have no time for prepping healthy food, take green supplements in capsules or powder form, pack a protein bar and a piece of fruit, buy a smoothie from a health-conscious food outlet. Ordering your fruit and nuts through an organic home delivery service can save time. There are too many healthy to-go solutions on the market these days not to make better choices.
The cheapest and most effective form of stress-management is using your body for what it was designed to do: move and breathe. Again, addressing time-strains……think of the return on your investment of a simple 15 minutes. What can you do in 15 minutes? A brisk walk to help get your heart rate up and also increase your oxygen intake. A 4 minute warm-up/8 minute run/ 3 minute cool down. A mini yoga session. Elliptical, treadmill, climber, stationary bike. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, you’re tending to your physiological needs. When you fail to give your body (your operating system) what it needs, stress actually compounds.
You get to choose whether to feed the stress or get off the train. If you push a small moment of renewal up to the top of your priority list, you are boosting your ability to cope, to make it out the other side. Stress management is all about empowering yourself to handle what comes your way. Life doesn’t stop handing you curve-balls, so you may as well invest in a catcher’s mitt.