Healthy & practical ways to manage stress in the new year


Happy New Year
While stress is typically frowned upon, it is not always a bad thing. In fact, it is healthy to experience some stress in our daily lives. A little bit goes a long way in pushing us to meet our goals and deadlines. Stress also gives us that sense of urgency to complete important tasks and promotes the desire to nurture and take care of the important people and things in our life. We all need a little dose of stress regularly to keep us moving forward, but too much can be more harmful than good.

Stress from being over committed, over worked, over tired or dealing with unplanned events, circumstances, or tragedy in our lives can be detrimental to our health; particularly when we deal with it in a not so positive way.

What we need to remember is that although we are not in control of all aspects of our life, we can control how we respond to stress by implementing and utilizing tools to reduce it. Do we worsen things by choosing unhealthy coping mechanisms, or do we combat the negative with positive defeat?

Zoom in. Instead of walking around feeling stressed, stop and pin point the issue. Sometimes, we can’t always recognize stress until we really stop and ask ourselves what it is that is picking away at our spirit. Once you recognize the problem, you can develop ways to overcome the obstacle or negative thoughts and feelings.

Here are some other practical daily applications you can apply to your life to help manage your stress and your overall general health:

1. Try going to sleep an hour earlier than normal. Sleeplessness can release stress hormones that are harmful to our health and can complicate an already stressful situation. It’s not always easy to get a good night sleep, but turn off the TV, social media, or put down that book before it get’s too late. You will be more apt to handle situations appropriately and make overall wiser choices when rested.

2. Only eat when you are hungry and not when you are attempting to temporarily soothe negative feelings; this will only make you feel worse in the end. Have a hot cup of herbal tea or a tall glass of water and remind yourself that you are in control of the choices you make. Apply Mindful Eating applications to help you with this.

3. Get outside. In the winter especially, we naturally are exposed to less sunlight which can cause anxiety, depression and additional feelings of stress in some people. If you live in a colder climate, make it a point to find something to do outside, even if it is just a quick walk on your lunch break, cross country or downhill skiing, sledding, snow shoveling, or find a local park or town with plowed sidewalks to walk, run and spend time under the sun. Invigorate yourself.

4. Your diet plays a huge role in stress management. If you are constantly reaching for the overly processed and convenient high carbohydrate foods with little to zero nutrition, you are going to feel run down and depleted. Add nutrient dense foods to meal time and don’t skip meals. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have your favorite foods, just sneak in some extra color with each meal and snack to make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need to feel your best. Remember to watch the overall quantity for healthy weight management. Keep in mind that popping or drinking a multivitamin and mineral supplement does not count. In the healthy adult, it has been shown that food sources are much more effective at nourishing the body and preventing disease, than a supplement. So target in on adding whole food choices to your diet that are high in fiber and nutrient rich. Great choices are fruits, vegetables, whole intact grains, beans, nuts, fish, lean meats and dairy. The more variety, the better.

5. Stay hydrated. Dehydration is not friendly and can make you feel tired, unnecessarily hungry, more prone to illness and agitate an already stressful situation. Invest in a refillable water bottle and keep it with you all day. Go sparingly on the caffeinated products as they act as a diuretic and rid the body of water, leaving you less hydrated than when you started.

6. Exercise. It reduces stress hormones in the body, helps to manage weight, improves mood, stabilizes blood sugar, reduces blood pressure and LDL in the body, as well as prevents certain diseases. Find something you love and do it regularly. Even if it’s getting off the couch and marching in place or doing calisthenics during your favorite TV show. Just find a way to move and stick with it.

7. Meal planning. While it is important to apply ourselves and work hard, we also need to take time out for rest. When we keep ourselves too busy, our eating choices are affected and we turn to unhealthy, convenient options. Leave time for your health. Try meal planning or at least giving some thought to what you put into your body over the course of a week, other than resorting to last minute options, such as the “drive thru.” Any premeditation with meal planning is a plus, so make the effort and it will work to your advantage.

Tools to help manage stress are similar, if not the same, as the tools we use to manage our health. Try to focus on at least one or two key ways above to manage stress and let it become a normal part of your life. You are worth it, so make the effort. Happy New Year.

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