Stress Management

With the week I had last week, I thought I would share some notes on stress I wrote for my Commit to Fit: Wellness Group last spring.

What is Stress? 

Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand made on it.
Acute Stress- most common, short-term response to imminent stressors, (like dodging car, preparing for exam, holidays) can cause health problems if it happens a lot.

Chronic Stress- continuous, prolonged and more than the individual can control (like long-term work overload, poverty, health problems)

Stressors are the factors causing stress, and they can be pleasant or unpleasant, real or imagined.
Physical Stressors- illness, accident, lack of sleep, heat, cold, noise

Emotional Stressors- pressures, deadlines, paying bills, holidays, parenting,

Health problems with unmanaged stress can include
Short term- Irregular heart beat, upset stomach, headache, back pain, stiff neck, disrupted sleep, increase blood pressure, muscle tension

Long term- immune system weakened, increase risk for heart disease, worsen asthma and COPD, may cause IBS, arthritis and contributes to belly fat.

10 Ways to Cope with Stress 

1. Exercise- leads to lower levels of perceived stress (so even if you can’t reduce stress, it will seem like less!), helps diminish belly fat, allows use to “play out” fight or flight response. Cardio, strength and stretching (NOT YOGA!).

2. Mediation- (If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate!) not the guided imagery, mumbo jumbo stuff, but true, biblical meditation. Saying scripture, reading scripture, thinking about scripture…

From Praisemoves:

In Hebrew, “haghah” is “to meditate” = “to murmur; to mutter; to sigh” – when done in the heart, this is considered “musing, or meditation.” According to Zodhiates’ AMG Complete Word Study, “It is possible that the Scriptures were read audibly during the process of meditation.”

In Hebrew, meditation carries with it the unappealing, but descriptive picture of “a cow chewing the cud” – the idea being that we “chew” the Word, “swallow it,” and then bring it back up to chew it some more throughout our day as new truths and revelations are revealed.

3. Journal- Write out feelings, count your blessings, jot doing a great quote you heard. Writing can help put things in perspective, and blow off steam.

4. Deep Breathing-
a. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
b. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
c. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.

Experiment with how long you inhale and exhale or even holding your breath. For instance, my favorite is called 2-1-3 Breathing. This is the ratio, not beats. I inhale for 4, hold for 2, and exhale for 6.

5. Time management- analyze what you do with your time. Set priorities. Use a planner. Learn to say no.

6. Sleep- You need 7-9 hours each night. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake time. Don’t eat or drink a lot before going to bed. Avoid frequent day time naps. Check medications for hidden stimulants and take these earlier in the day. Reduce or eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Make your kids sleep in their own beds.

7. Find humor- laughter causes endorphins to be released and decreases stress hormones.

8. Reframing- consciously reinterpreting a situation in a positive light. Learn to be optimistic. If you are not able to change the situation, change your thinking.

9. Start a Stress Journal- It can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
a. What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
b. How you felt, both physically and emotionally
c. How you acted in response
d. What you did to make yourself feel better

10. If you don’t maintain a proper diet then you’re going to feel sluggish and fatigued and won’t be able to operate at peak performance. And if hunger is not the problem, food is NOT the solution!
a. Replace sugary soda pop with water or natural fruit juice (NO added sugar!)
b. Replace chocolate and junk food snacks with fruit, nuts, seeds or veggie slices.
c. Take supplements if needed.

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