Before I became a health coach, I was a policy lady. I went to policy school because I wanted to help right some of the injustices of the world. I still do, but I’ve changed my approach a bit. However, coming from this background, you might imagine that, like many of you, the last few months have been pretty stressful. In that spirit, I want to dive into how you can manage your stress even if you can’t do anything about what is causing the stress.
First, our body’s stress response is very important. It keeps us alive by diverting our blood where it needs to go in the event that we need to fly or fight. Think about being chased by a bear or lion, you definitely need to run away or fight it off if you are going to survive. But when we are constantly under stress, it can harm our health by causing us to store fat around our organs and by creating inflammation. But it’s more than that. It can rob us of joy, and it just feels really horrible.
But what do you do when the thing or things that are causing you stress are out of your hands? Here are my tips:
- Get as much trustworthy information as you can. My tactic is to stay away from any news outlet that needs you to watch or click ads because those sources tend to sensationalize things.
- Create a plan to act on that information if needed. You don’t have to do everything, but pick a thing and do it.
- Disengage from social media. Social media can be fun, but it can also be full of inaccurate information that can cause a lot of fear and panic. And you have no control over what you are going to see. While you are scrolling through pictures of cute kids or puppies, you get smacked by hateful or scary memes. Back away from your devices for a few hours or even a few days to give yourself a rest. I hear the world outside is pretty beautiful.
- Hang out with people who lift you up. Share your concerns, your fears, and then listen to theirs. Sharing our concerns helps us feel like we aren’t alone.
- Take care of yourself. This isn’t a time to fall off the wagon. In fact, it’s a great time to up your health game. Exercise to reduces stress hormones and lower inflammation and eat those vegetables, fresh and fermented, to keep that brain-gut connection well-fed.
- Implement stress management techniques into your day.
- Breathe. A solid breathing practice is one of the fastest ways to calm your stress hormones.
- Practice gratitude. This means taking a few minutes to write down or meditate on a few things you are grateful for. This not only anchors you in the present, but it also has been shown to reduce inflammation.
- Meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool, but it’s basically just giving your brain a break from all those thoughts going through your head. Simply get comfortable in a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. You can do this by slowly counting as you breathe in and out. When I meditate, I like to count to 10 and then start again as I breathe slowly in and out. During this time, my mind might start to wonder so I just bring it back to my breath. There are loads of guided meditations out there. I really like the Headspace app (paid) or this resource from UCLA for free guided meditations.
I hope this help you and that you will make it a priority to take care of yourself, no matter what storm you are weathering.