It’s so important to have a positive attitude, to be grateful and to understand that we can actually physically lower our stress levels by changing our frame of mind.
If we wake up miserable, stress tends to pile on. We’re more easily stressed out about simple things that normally wouldn’t bother us. Changing your frame of mind first thing in the morning will go along way in reducing your stress levels.
4 Key Points in Reducing Stress
As humans we are creatures of habit. We sleep on the same side of the bed, we eat breakfast in the same chair at the dinner table, we even watch tv on the same side of the couch.
Some unhealthy habits may include:
- Smoking a cigarette after a meal
- having a sugary dessert after dinner
- looking for unhealthy snacks or ‘comfort food’ when stressed out
- having an alcoholic beverage after work
These are all formed habits, no different than Ivan Pavlov’s study on Conditioned Response. In short he used a dog, saliva, food and a bell. He started to ring a bell, then feed the dog. After a short time, when we rung the bell the dog would start salivating right before the food was presented. The next step was to ring the bell and not offer food, in which the dog still salivated. This is a conditioned response no different than how humans condition themselves.
*Note: This is in large part where, cravings come from.
The good news is, we can turn our healthy ‘conditioned responses’ / unhealthy habits into positive habits.
Develop Healthy Habits
When we’re stressed out we can condition ourselves to actually crave healthy choices or exercise.
When we’re stressed out we can condition ourselves:
- to perform a breathing exercise
- to go for a short walk
- to workout (job, yoga, cardio, etc.)
- to write about whatever is stressing us out
- to talk to a friend
- to have a healthier snack
This goes along with habits, cravings and more from our first tip of habits. In fact you’ll notice all of these 4 tips go hand in hand.
It’s important to note that by putting highly processed food into our body we are causing more stress on everything from our mind to internal organs. What we want to do is find ways to reduce stress, which means your conventional ‘comfort food’ isn’t really making us feel better but worse as it continues to stress us out.
Try to avoid processed and packed food especially when you feel stress coming on. Avoid tobacco, alcohol, chips, pop and more that you think make you feel better but in fact cause your stress levels to rise.
Remember our conditioned response from the first tip. It won’t be easy at first but if you work hard you’ll stop craving unhealthy food when you’re stressed out, and find other ways to cope and reduce your stress levels.
Look to whole food, food that is the ingredient instead of products that have ingredients. Try fruit when you’re looking for something sweet or even a fruit smoothie or blended frozen fruit as ice cream. Drink water throughout the day, and try to have small meals frequently that will also increase your metabolism and help you burn body fat.
These suggestions will help lower your stress levels and help you better deal with stressful situations when they arise.
Without a doubt, exercise is the #1 way to reduce stress. Funny how exercise is the last thing we do and are most likely to ‘find time for’ when we’re stressed out the most.
Making time to exercise when you’re stressed out or even on a regular basis to prevent the rise of stress levels will without a doubt drastically make a difference in your life. Find time to exercise, make it a priority and start a healthy habit like going for a walk first thing in the morning, hitting the gym at lunch time or stretching exercises in the evening. These will all help you reduce stress levels and help your body better handle adrenal fatigue.
The brief breathing exercise many of you did with me during the presentation include a serious of 5 breaths.
Breath in for 5 seconds
Hold your breath for 5 seconds
Breath out for 5 seconds
*Repeat up to 5 times
There is actual proven research around how a simple breathing exercise like this can reduce your stress levels. And if we look back to #1 on this list, creating a habit of this breathing exercise when we feel our stress levels rising will go a long way in helping you prevent stress before it builds up. If you’re looking for more information and exercises like this, listen to my interview with Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, expert in stress reduction.
Last but certainly not least, our environment plays a significant role in our stress levels. It’s so terribly important to pay attention to our environment and who we let affect our lives especially when it comes to our stress levels.
Many of us are stressed out at work, which means every single day we get up and go to a place that causes our stress levels to rise. Many of us have a stressful home environment as well, which means we really have very few places we can go where we aren’t stressed out.
If you have an issue with your boss or a co-worker, talk to them. It’s not doing you or your stress levels any good by avoiding the situation or allowing it to stress you out day in and day out.
This is no different with your family life. We all have issues that stress us out at home from time to time but not dealing with them only makes matters worse. Talk to your family members about being more supportive with your choices and hopefully you can come together to find a happy medium you can all agree on.
And lastly, there’s nothing wrong with going out and finding groups that are supportive. It could be fitness class, it could be a coach (fitness, nutrition or other) to help you along the way. You could also find supportive online groups that offer both or even something different.
Whatever you choose, find a supportive group, a place you feel welcome and one that can help reduce your stress levels.
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