Five years ago, I was introduced to the concept of good and bad stress, or eustress and distress. This transformed my outlook on stress.
As a busy mom and entrepreneur, I’m well aware of the negative consequences of stress. At one point, I was so overwhelmed that I thought it was completely normal to remain in a constant state of distress just to get through the day.
Once my health took a turn for the worse, I quickly realized I needed more than the daily meditating and yoga sessions. And vigorous exercise and deep breathing activities weren’t quite enough, either. It was time to get to get to the root of some issues, relinquish control of the things I couldn’t control, and give my body a break. If not, my health would continue to plummet.
I’m not suggesting those activities won’t work for you. In fact, they may be worth a shot. It was just necessary for me to try a different approach since the underlying issues causing stress were severe.
Here are some simple tactics I used to get my stress level under control:
1. Sip Tea
I’m an avid tea drinker, so it’s nice to know each time I sit down with a cup, the stress levels are plummeting. Not only is it soothing to your throat and your body, but it also calms your mood.
It’s not all just in your head. A study conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL) revealed drinking black tea decreases the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream following a stressful event.
Professor Andrew Steptoe, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, added:
“Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal. This has important health implications, because slow recovery following acute stress has been associated with a greater risk of chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease.”
2. Dig Deep to Alter Your Perception
The mind is one of the most powerful components of the body. It dictates how we perceive things going on around us and how we react to situations. As the famous Chinese proverb says:
“Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.”
What does any of this have to do with stress? If your mind is always in a state of panic, your actions will follow suit and you’ll constantly be stressed out. But if you start by suppressing negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones, the outcome will be more positive. Sounds about right, but not quite.
Psychology Today took a closer look at the power of positive self-affirmations, based on the results of several research studies, and found it’s only useful when coupled with a comprehensive program of self-growth to get to the root of the self-esteem issues, accept unpleasant thoughts, and attempt to turn a new leaf by engaging in positive behaviors.
Initially, I couldn’t understand why it was necessary to deal with the thoughts head-on instead of trying to eradicate them. Then I thought of what happens to an open wound covered by a bandage when it’s accidentally exposed. Simply put, it will be prone to irritation and the outcome can be even worse. The same goes for your negative thoughts; if you don’t determine the source, they will come back to haunt you at the worst possible times.
3. Write Away
Your everyday life may be extremely overwhelming, leaving very little idle time. But if you’re under high levels of stress, allocating a small window of time to record your innermost thoughts in a journal could be beneficial.
“Research has shown the tremendous benefits of journal writing on both our physical and mental health. Writing not only relieves stress and improves your mood, but it also boosts your immune system, which helps your body to withstand the effects of further stress.”
Why? Because it’s your outlet to vent without fear of being ridiculed, which sometimes happens when we express what’s going on in our lives to others. In essence, you can let it all hang out while freeing up space in your brain. I often find when I sit and let thoughts about negative circumstances bounce around in my head, I grow even more irritated and snappy. But when I write about it on paper, rip the paper out, and crumple it up, I feel much better.
Even if you’re not having a stressful day, week, or month, you may want to consider keeping a gratitude journal to serve as a constant reminder of all the things you’re thankful for.
In my younger years, I didn’t see the big deal about being sleep-deprived. I’d grab a Red Bull or cup of joe and life would be better until my next nap. But as the years progressed, unhealthy sleeping patterns caught up with me. Every little thing seemed to push me over the edge and I couldn’t comprehend why I was so stressed out. All I knew was that resting for at least eight hours was the key to bringing it down a notch in my life.
The National Institutes of Health took a closer look at why we all need a good night’s sleep in its April 2013 News in Health newsletter. Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at NIH stated:
“Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies. It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.”
So it looks like burning the midnight oil not only causes you to live life on the edge, but it can also cause your health to deteriorate over time.
What tactics have you used to minimize stress in your everyday life?