Can I let you in on a little secret? Sometimes this coach gets stressed!
You see, I have ambitious goals. I thrive on moving full speed ahead to reach my goals. As I am moving forward in my intense determined way, there are some things that can send me spinning into stress: Lack of margin for life’s unexpected curve balls, flexing too much to the pressures of others, not letting go of things I can’t control, and having unrealistic expectations.
On top of my own weaknesses that contribute to my stress, there are also real life factors to contend with. As Richard A. Swenson states in his book The Overload Syndrome, “Stress is directly related to change. Three hundred years ago, people did not have much stress. Yes, they had pain, tragedy, destitution, hardship, and suffering – but they did not have much change and therefore, by definition, they did not have much stress. Today’s conditions, however, are vastly different. The flood of change sweeping over every quadrant of our existence has brought with it unprecedented stress. Vintage overload.”
Did you know that stress is considered the number one health problem in the United States? It is the cause of numerous health related issues: heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging, and premature death.
Stress affects your ability to think, inhibits your ability to interact with others in healthy ways, and compromises the quality of your work. I know: Did you catch my tweet and post last week that said, “Happy Wednesday! May your toots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love?” Yikes!
It would be handy to blame my stress on the flood of change and other outside factors. While those factors are real, I chose how I will respond to each situation that comes my way. In order to decrease the stress in my life, I must mind the gap between my expectations and reality. I must be aware of my responses to life and the people around me. Tune in. Be present, realistic, and willing to flex and bend when circumstances necessitate it. I need to slow down to real human pace! Here are a few of my favorite stress reducing tips in no particular order:
1. Linger with God longer
There is nothing more calming to me than sweet time spent in God’s presence. To be reminded of His love and care for me and to really soak that in. When things get crazy, this is not the place I want to skimp. Instead, I want to linger longer, even come back for a fresh and focused time later in the day.
2. Get outdoors
The fresh air and natural beauty are relaxing. Did you know that enjoying time in a forest boosts your immune system, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves your mood? It can even increase your focus!
3. Sip tea
Slow down and sip a cup of chamomile or green tea and enjoy the natural calming effect.
4. Take up a hobby
All work and no play – that’s bad for your health! Take up a leisure activity you enjoy such as knitting, puzzles, woodworking, or fishing. Activities of this nature allow your hands to be busy and your mind space to sort things out.
This might seem an odd stress reducer, but taking small chunks of time to sort through things can be therapeutic, and less clutter around creates a more tranquil environment.
When you are sleep deprived, it makes everything hard – just ask any new mom or college student! Because we tend to take on too much the one thing we think we can give up is our sleep. That is a lie. We need those 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
7. Listen to soothing music
Not listening while you work – just listening. Be present with it. Enjoy it; notice how it makes you feel.
With a rigorous schedule exercise isn’t always a priority, and yet most of you have desk jobs that have you sitting for prolonged periods of time. Some view the dangers of sitting equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day! Even 21 minutes of cardio a day will make a difference. Cardio is not the only worthy goal. Consider yoga, strength training, stretching, etc. Mix it up so that you increase both your strength and flexibility.
Slow down. Pay attention to how you are breathing. When we are stressed, the pace of our breathing increases and get shallower. Breathe deep. Breath in for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts and exhale for 8 counts. Repeat four times.
Set the timer for at least 10 minutes- longer if you wish. Dwell on how much God loves you and all that He has done for you. Recite a scripture or meaningful phrase. The point is to focus on Him not your stress factors.
11. Pamper yourself
Give yourself permission to take a bath and read a book, chat with a friend, get a massage or foot rub. Whatever is pampering to you.
Lavender, cypress, and rosemary all have a stress reducing effects. Be sure your oils are pure – scented lotions and other products tend to have additional ingredients that inhibit the full affect.
Consider taking passion flower, St. John’s wort, kava, or oats to calm or licorice or ginseng to reduce stress.
13. Take B vitamins
B vitamins ease stress. Foods rich in vitamin B are beans, peas, nuts, liver, and eggs.
It is not just a cliché that laughter is good medicine. Watch a comedy, share a funny story, and laugh!
Letting it all out on paper increases your awareness and enables you to see things from a fresh perspective. List all the things you are grateful for.
16. Eat well
Limit your alcohol, sugar, and caffeine intake. Choose healthy fruits and vegetables.
17. Slow down
Make a conscious effort to walk slowly, speak slowly, and avoid hurrying.
18. Work with a coach
In the process of working with my own coach I have made numerous discoveries that have had a dramatic impact on my stress levels. Expectations revealed or new ways to face life that have made a powerful difference!
The very best thing you can do when you begin to feel stressed – break the momentum. Identify where the stress is coming from and indulge in one of the many options listed above!
What’s your favorite way to put the kibosh on stress?