Story by Cheri Woodsmall
We all have it. We refuse to get rid of it. We carry it with us like the latest Tory Burch tote. What is it? That nasty little thing called STRESS. Stress hits us all in life, and while a little stress is good – it keeps us focused and motivated – too much of it can grind our lives to a complete halt. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed-out, you may become paralyzed and unable to do much of anything.
There are many ways to tame your stress and keep it at bay. Here are 5 tips to help you turn that stress into positive, healthy energy and help you have a healthy, happy life.
Whether you’re having a hilarious family game night (we highly recommend you get this on the calendar once a month!) or quietly giggling at the cat video your sister shared with you on Facebook, laughter has tremendous short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. It can help long term as well. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Do you find yourself catching every single little cold or flu bug around? It’s most likely due to a weak immune system caused from carrying months of stress on your shoulders. It’s time to lose it and feel better!
Be More Positive
Positive thinking reduces stress and you enjoy life more. Studies suggest it increases your lifespan, reduces your chances of depression, and helps you to deal with hardships in a better way. But an optimistic attitude doesn’t mean that you adopt emu-like qualities and keep your head in the sand and ignore problems or unpleasant causes of stress. It is about approaching unpleasant or stressful events in a more positive and constructive way! Positive self-talk promotes an optimistic view of life and you are more likely to be a positive thinker.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
This is a big one. How many of you have this inner conversation with yourselves? “Oh, I see The McClains just put a pool in their backyard. Now everyone in book club is going to always want to go to their house, not mine. That’s ok, I will just call the gardener and do some more landscaping/buy a new patio set and lights and put in a new outdoor sound system…etc.” O.M.G. STOP!!! Do you know how much unneeded stress you are putting on yourself every time you do this? Not only are your putting yourself through the work of it all, but the ridiculous financial stress it will give you to make such impulsive purchases. You just keep being your lovely, fun, generous self and everything will be fine.
In her book, Difficult Conversations Just for Women: Kill the Anxiety. Get What You Want, Dr. Susan Harrison explains that we are all our own worst enemy. “We all need to give that inner naysayer a big swift kick in the pants! We spend so much time worrying about what others think. It’s a terrible cycle and so self-destructive! We need to be kind to ourselves, just as we are kind to others. We have so many people in our lives that are our cheerleaders, who think we are just the best, we need to be our OWN best cheerleaders!”
Just Breathe – Mindfulness
You’ve probably heard that mindfulness helps reduce stress. But how does being mindful actually help you do that? Mindfulness not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being. The practice helps you become aware of your thoughts in the moment, so you can then step back from them and not take them so literally. That way, your stress response is not initiated in the first place. In her book Thrive, Arianne Huffington (yes, THAT Arianne Huffington!) tells us that we don’t have to completely burn out from stress in order to succeed. Arianne recently released a six-week online course that helps you move from surviving to thriving. The course uses scientifically proven methods to decrease stress and burnout and improve your overall health, happiness and well-being. Guest teachers include Kobe Bryant, Wharton Professor Adam Grant, Warby Parker CEO Dave Gilboa, and more. For more information, go to www.thriveglobal.com
Eat and Sleep Your Stress Away
Did you know there are foods rich in Vitamin C actually reduce the levels of cortisol in our bodies? Cortisol is that nasty little hormone that increases fat storage, especially in the belly. Another amazing cortisol fighter is salmon. A study conducted by French scientists concluded that fish oil “significantly blunted” exerted by the central nervous system. And our favorite de-stressor – Dark Chocolate. German researchers gathered 30 volunteers, whose stress levels were determined by a psychological questionnaire. After two weeks of eating dark chocolate daily, cortisol levels decreased and other stress related imbalances improved as well.
Poor sleeping habits can put more stress on your body as well. If you’re not careful, stress can be a catalyst for a vicious cycle of sleepless nights: You’re stressed, so you can’t sleep, and then your lack of sleep makes you more stressed, and so on. Again, practice deep breathing and mindfulness. There are amazing meditation sessions on YouTube. Light a candle and plug into an hour of beautiful, soothing music to relax your mind prior to drifting off. Sweet dreams!