You will hear just about every therapist, counselor, or even a friend say, that managing stress is crucial to a better life. Instead of “positive coping skills,” I like to think of this in very simple terms: creating more balance in your life.
We are definitely better able to handle whatever comes along, the stressors, problems, unforeseen changes in our daily life, if we are feeling healthy and happy. If I am alert, having gotten a lot of sleep the night before, well-fed (I’m told I can get a little “hangry” when my stomach is growling), and feel a bit more positive, then I do a much better job managing setbacks. In general, we can also think of the problems that get in our ways and make us feel down as “stressors.”
There are two types of stressors in our worlds: short-term and long-term stressors. Those that are considered longer-term, (difficult relationships and/ or marriages, unsatisfying jobs, school classes, chronic physical illness, and mental health problems) cannot be changed very quickly, and therefore take adapting and resiliency to handle them in better ways. There are a few things we can do to improve our overall health, balance, and manage our lives in positive ways, we can develop a better defense against chronic stressors. We can be more naturally more resilient. And we can more easily adapt and become more flexible with those daily problems that can also come up and change our plans.
You may not see a direct connection between how you eat and responding better to an unexpected flat tire. Or, you may not believe that getting daily exposure to sunlight (just 10 minutes!) could help you to feel more resourceful. Being aware and making few choices that create balance and self-care can have positive and confidence building effects on your life.
Let’s look at eight categories of life from research that stated those people who were missing major areas of support or engagement in their lives showed a vulnerability to increased symptoms and greater risk of developing more problems over the course of their lives. Therefore, if you can add more of these healthy habits to your day or week, you’re already ahead of the game in prevention, stress reduction, and strengthen your overall life management skills.
Include at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day (even walking around the block), get regular check-ups by your doctor, take medications as prescribed, and rest when your body signals that you should take a break
Perhaps this means you talk to a professional, or maybe just reflecting on your life and working through problems with a close friend, but studies show that 85% of Americans can benefit from mental health support. This DOES NOT MEAN that 85% of us have symptoms that qualify for a mental illness, it just means that we are a talkative people and talking things through helps us immensely.
Spirituality and faith can be a significant source of hope and comfort. If it is true for you, make a little time to pray, meditate, attend church, read, and simply invest in your spiritual side
Does your school or job bring you satisfaction? What parts of what you are currently doing are interesting to you? How can you find more engaging or satisfying ways to enjoy your work everyday?
This means sunlight, healthy foods, and regularly taking vitamins to improve your health. Studies show that even 10 minutes a day of getting natural sunlight (even reading the newspaper next to a window) helps to regulate mood and the body
Reduce your cigarette or marijuana use, alcohol consumptions, and definitely harder drugs. Even when considering some of them “natural,” they are all added substances and ways to alter, avoid, or numb-out instead of living your fullest life.
Eat more vegetables and fruits! What you put into your body is important. For some families, and especially individuals, being intentional is a challenge where ease and speed can rule the moment. Many follow this most basic rule whenever they can: choose foods that look closest to nature. It’s impossible to find a pizza or hamburger naturally in the environment, but every cooked vegetable, grain, fruit, nuts, and even simply cooked fish and meats are very close to how they were meant to nourish us.
Have time to maintain your friendships and relationships with your family. You don’t need to unload all of your stress, but laughing and sharing goes a long way for lightening our lives.
Think about the list above, can you add or increase one or two? How long would it take to make them a habit? The research is clear that incorporating more of them into your life, you will both see and feel improvements to better handle short and long-term stressors or whatever life may bring!
For more help, please call to schedule an appointment:
Courtney Klein, Psy.D.