Learning healthier ways to manage stress

anger-management

If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.

Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.

Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A’s

Change the situation:

Avoid the stressor.

Alter the stressor.

Change your reaction:

Adapt to the stressor.

Accept the stressor.

1. Avoid unnecessary stress

Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed.

Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them.

Avoid people who stress you out –Limit the amount of time you spend with people that cause you stress. 

Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off.

Avoid hot-button topics –If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.

Pare down your to-do list –If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.”

2. Alter the situation

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future.

Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way.
Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same.

Be more assertive. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them.

Manage your time better. Plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself.

3. Adapt to the stressorfeelings-01

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective.

Look at the big picture. Will it matter in a month, or a year?

Adjust your standards. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”

Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts.

4. Accept what you can’t change

Some sources of stress are unavoidable, in such cases; the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.

Look for the upside. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth.

Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist.

Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes.

5. Make time for fun & relaxation

You can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for healthy fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.

Healthy ways to relax and recharge

Go for a walk.

Spend time in nature.

Call a good friend.

Exercise.

Write in your journal.

Take a long bath.

Light scented candles

Play with a pet.

Work in your garden.

Get a massage.

Curl up with a good book.

Listen to music.

Watch a comedy

Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.

Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule..

Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. msclip-038

Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.

Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself.

6. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

You can increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical health. 

Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress.

Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat.

Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary.

Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

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Carl Jung – BBC – 1959

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earth’s intelligence

“If we surrendered To earth’s intelligence We could rise up rooted, like trees.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

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Food & Mood

There are 4 brain chemicals that can influence mood.

Four chemicals directly impact mood and are present in higher concentrations after meals than between meals:

  • Serotonin, released after eating carbs (sugars and starches). This “feel-good” chemical enhances calm, improves outlook and lessens depression. The key is to consume complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans and vegetables) and not simple carbohydrates (cookies, candy, etc.). “Simple carbohydrates give you a quick burst of energy because they increase blood sugar,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic. ” But that burst doesn’t last long. Complex carbohydrates provide a longer-lasting effect.”
  • Dopamine and norepinephrine, released after eating protein (meats, poultry, dairy and legumes). These chemicals work together to increase your energy level, enhance your concentration and make you more alert. “Choose lean proteins, which are not only better for your heart but also are easier to digest. They won’t leave you feeling weighed down like fried or high-fat food choices,” she says.
  • Acetylcholine, produced from a B vitamin called choline found in wheat germ and eggs. This chemical is believed to influence learning, memory and mood.
The ideal meal veggies

The best meal to enhance your mood is one that combines complex carbohydrates with lean proteins, such as:

  • Tuna on 100 percent whole wheat bread
  • A turkey meatball with whole grain pasta and red sauce
  • A lean piece of beef with brown rice and vegetables

“Vegetarians can opt for soy or quinoa,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic. “These are both complete plant proteins that offer all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) you need.”

Foods that spoil your mood

Meanwhile, avoid foods that may taste good at first but won’t leave you feeling your best:

  • Lunchmeat submarine sandwich on white. “The white roll will reduce serotonin levels and leave you feeling drained, and the tidal wave of salt from the lunchmeats will make you tired and bloated,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic.
  • Bag of chips, bottle of regular soda and a cookie. “I’ve seen folks buy this for lunch,” she says. “The chips are high in saturated fat (which tends to increase inflammation inside blood vessels) and low in serotonin. And tons of added sugars in the soda and cookie will trigger a protein cascade that will leave you feeling low, low down.”
  • Fried fish sandwich with french fries. “Fish is normally a “feel-good” food, but not when it’s coated with white flour and deep-fried in a vat of oil,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic. “Both the fish and fries are high in fat and sodium, which will zap your mood quicker than a dreary day.”

If you’ll be making changes in your diet, be patient. It may take two to three weeks to see an improvement in your mood.

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What Don’t You Do That You Should Be Doing?

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How Your Brain Can Turn Anxiety into Calmness

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Brain Map

See the interactive Brain Map here.

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