Manage your Stress & Improve your Self-care Practices

Stress Management

I want to share with you something I came to realize and it brought me a lot of comfort and peace.

I was reflecting on why I constantly feel like I have to be working all.the.time… why do I find myself in a permanent rush? Why do I always have too much going on? Why do I facilitate having high stress levels to be my baseline? Why does having little sleep be deemed acceptable and something that is easy to compromise? 

I don’t like that my time is always full, and that I always feel guilty having fun with family and friends or even spending time with my hubby.

Does this sound familiar to you too?

From that reflection, I realized that I started busying myself with school, work, events, and volunteer responsibilities around 12 years ago, when I felt like “I had to prove myself”. I continued this pattern and I soon became known as the person that’s always busy and has to schedule friends and family a month in advance. That made me feel uneasy. I wanted my family and friends to know that they could count on me when they need me. So, why do I continue to book up all my time?

Today, though, I no longer have the feeling that I need to prove myself to anyone … even to myself. 

What I really want out of my life is to WORK with passion and intention, and LIVE with purpose and peace.

It took me this long to figure it out… but you don’t have to, my friend.

Lesson of the Day: If you were to set an intention for this year, set it to be more present. Be intentional with your time. When you’re procrastinating, find out why. Break the cycle or do something else if you can. Start caring about yourself… it’s really not a selfish act… it’s a self-less act. By doing so, you’re doing everyone else a favour too.

Start caring about yourself by managing your stress and practicing self care today. Below I shared with you some of my favourite self-care tips to optimize your health. Because my friend, in the words of Tim Ferris, “if you don’t have time, you don’t have priorities”, and “you” are a priority… 

Why Are We Stressing?

Well, why are we even stressing out in the first place? I’m sure all of us can list ten’s – if not hundred’s – of reasons why we experience stress these days. Prior to the pandemic, many common stressors were endless work, heavy traffic, gatherings, events, commitments, and more. It’s the rat race that leaves many of us constantly stressed out. However, given the circumstances of the pandemic, many of us are left working with precautions, virtually, or unemployed altogether. In addition, limited connections, excess alone time, fear, uncertainty and feeling stuck may cause stress while we navigate the pandemic life.  

What Do We Need?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid that breaks down human needs into 5 categories:

  • Physiological Needs – this includes things like air, food, water, sleep, clothing, shelter and reproduction. Our physiological needs are essential for survival, and make up the base of the pyramid. 
  • Safety Needs – this includes personal security, health, employment, resources and property. 
  • Love and Belonging – having a sense of connection through friends, family or intimacy are what help meet this need.
  • Esteem – this involves self-esteem, respect, status, strength, recognition and freedom.
  • Self-Actualization – this lies at the top of the pyramid, and is the desire to live up to one’s full potential. 

Why Do We Need To Reduce Stress?

Now that we’ve identified common stressors and what our human needs are, let’s take a closer look at why reducing stress is actually important. 

When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol. This is our body’s way of physically preparing us to handle danger or a threat. However, when we experience constant stress, increased levels of cortisol leads to increased blood sugar levels. This increase in blood sugar further effects our physical health by promoting insulin resistance, fat storage, as well as increasing hunger and reducing fullness. As a result, stress is linked to many chronic health conditions that tend to only be treated with diets, weight loss and/or drugs. Examples of these chronic health conditions include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, IBS and other food intolerances, depression, anxiety, asthma, infertility, memory impairment and immunosuppression. 

Stress also has the ability to impact our bodies, minds, feelings and actions. 

Given the many impacts of stress on our health, it’s clear that we need to break the cycle. 

Manage Stress Using The 4 A’s:

1. Avoid

Avoid situations that make you feel stressed by:

  • Saying “no” to things that don’t want to do.
  • Avoiding or removing people in your life who cause you stress.
  • Taking control of your surroundings or environment (i.e. if you feel anxious scrolling through social media, clean up your account or delete your account).
  • Make a to-do list to prioritize and organize your day so even on busy day, your tasks seem manageable.

2. Alter

Alter a stressful situation by:

  • Recognizing and communicating your feelings (rather than bottling it up) to those you trust and feel comfortable around.
  • Compromising when asking someone to change their behaviour by being willing to change your behaviour as well.
  • Creating a schedule that has work-life balance to avoid burning out.

3. Adapt

Adapt to a stressful situation by:

  • Viewing the situation with a positive mindset.
  • Getting real with yourself — Is this situation worth stressing over? Will it matter in a day, month or year? Is it worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your energy on things that matter.
  • Setting achievable and realistic standards. Avoid perfectionism, as it will set you up for failure.
  • Practice appreciation and gratitude for your achievements and talents when feeling stressed out.

4. Accept

Sometimes stress is unavoidable. In this case, the best way to cope is to accept things are the way they are by:

  • Focusing on your reaction to stressors that are out of your control; learn to let go and forgive, and talk about your feelings.
  • Looking for opportunities for self-improvement. If your actions negatively contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on your mistakes and recognize how you can grow from this situation.
  • Recognizing people make mistakes and letting go of anger and resentment.
  • Writing in a journal to help identify stressors. Ask yourself what caused the stress, how did it make you feel both mentally and physically, how did you react, and what made you feel better.

Now that we’ve discussed all these topics around caring for your mind and soul, let’s dig deeper. In next week’s blog, we will be exploring Fat Phobia – “I’m Scared of Gaining Weight”

Blog Contributors

This blog was written with the help of some amazing nutrition & dietetics students, Yasmin and Celine.

References:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm

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