Below are several strategies that can be used to reduce stress. Not all strategies will work equally well for every person, but you should be able to find one or two here that work for you.
Stress Management Strategies
1. Minimize commitments that can cause any kind of deadline etc. - As soon as you put a deadline on yourself you are creating a stressor. If you're reasonable and only schedule a few deadlines this isn't an issue, but if you're like most people you'll inevitably take on too much and end up overstressed if you're not careful. Make commitments only for the most important items and let the rest wait.
2. Set bedtime schedule for sleep to get 7-10 hours of sleep - The more sleep you get, the more stress you'll be able to handle without cracking. For some people getting up to 7 hours is an accomplishment, so start reasonable and aim for adding 30-60 minutes to your sleep. You may even find you're able to accomplish more in the same amount of time when you're well rested.
3. Avoid eating too much junk food and keep blood sugar balanced - If you want a quick way to make yourself excessively stressed, let your blood sugar get low - this produces that panicky "I have to eat something RIGHT now!" feeling. If you ensure that you eat adequate protein with your meals, or better yet, stay low carb except for around your workouts, you'll end up with much improved blood sugar balance and hunger will be more like a polite request that you can fulfill at your leisure.
4. Create meal plan ahead of time to reduce stress during the week - A bit of preparation goes a long way towards reducing stress. If you can take a couple of hours on the weekend to plan and prepare your meals, not only will you reduce stress, you'll also be likely to eat healthier and you'll save time overall!
5. Reduce workouts volume if excessively stressed - As great as exercise is, exercise is still a stress on our bodies. If you add intense workouts to an already stressed out schedule you'll end up burning yourself out. Intense exercise requires recovery, and if you're not giving your body the sleep and rest it needs to recover you're just digging yourself into a hole.
6. Do 30 minutes of yoga or meditation every night at 7 before bed - This doesn't have to be some crazy woo-woo ritual. There are studies everywhere showing that mediation is a power stress reducer as well as improving anxiety and focus. Our modern lives are so full of distraction, that a practiced focus like yoga or meditative breathing is extremely valuable when it comes to resetting our stress levels and training our focus.
9. Do deep breathing any time you feel stressed - Breathing is amazingly powerful. As crazy as it sounds, actually breathing makes a big difference! When we're stressed (even when not noticeably stressed) our breathing becomes shallow. Poor posture will also compromise breathing pattern. Take a few seconds every time you feel stressed and really take a deep breath. Close your eyes (assuming you're not driving!) and inhale through your nose for a count of 7, feeling the air come into your body and feeling your chest and abdomen expanding. Hold for 2 seconds and then exhale slowly until you've expelled all of the air. Repeat 3 times.
11. Spend half an hour after work outside, ideally in nature - It's amazing the perspective you can get from a 10 minute walk. If I'm ever stuck on something I can't figure out or unable to come up with a solution to a problem, often the solution will come to me on a walk or in the shower. It seems that these times of peace and distraction are often the times your subconscious will produce that perfect solution.
12. SLOW DOWN!! - That's right. Slow down! It's not a race. Think about 10 years from now - do you want to look back and realize you barely even remember the last 10 years because you were so busy? Stop. Take a breath. Relax. Take some time and REALLY evaluate what matters to you. In 10 years, what do you want to look back and see? Who are you going to wish you spent more time with? What are you going to wish you did? Are you really going to be less busy in 10 years than you are now? For most of us busyness is a habit, not a necessity. Prioritize the things that really matter and dismiss the rest. Life will go on, and you'll probably enjoy it a whole lot more.
So, there you have it. 12 strategies to reduce stress and enjoy life more. Try out the strategies and evaluate how they work for you. If it reduces your stress, keep doing it. If it doesn't help, drop it and move on to the next one.
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