Everyone has stress, and oftentimes we find ourselves justifying why it needs to exist. Let’s reframe the way we think about stress and how we handle it.
In the fast paced culture we live in, we glorify stress. We use it as a synonym for success, when in fact, we should be doing the opposite.
The higher the stress of your job, the more deserving you are of accolades. We think of cities like New York full of high-strung, successful people pounding the pavement and making a name for themselves in the bright lights, and think that being the last person in the office is worthy of recognition and praise.
How often do you hear others talk about their stress as if they are bragging? Conversations like “How are you?”, “Good, so busy, so stressed out, but good”, happen on the daily. I find that slightly comical, but mostly alarming.
If you’re so stressed out, you obviously are not good. You are the farthest thing from good. So if you’re guilty of skipping your lunch break this week, ordering a venti double-shot espresso while checking your email, or irrationally lashing out at the “middle man” who put you on hold for too long because of your stress level, you are not alone. Please, read on.
For years, studies have shown stress as a precursor for serious diseases, linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, liver failure, and other chronic illnesses. What’s more, when you are experiencing stress, hormones like ghrelin (the hunger hormone) are triggered and can cause you to overeat.
Stress eating is real: there is actually a somewhat scientific explanation for the bag of chips which is magically empty after a stressful afternoon.
Let’s call it what it is: unhealthy.
We need to learn to de-stress somehow, as if our life depended on it – because in reality, it does.
While I won’t try to argue over who is more worthy of stress, I will justify that no matter how stressed out you are, the single most important thing you can do for your health is learn to manage your stress.
At the end of the day, your health is the single most important thing in the world and it could be suffering the consequences for years to come without you even knowing it, if you can’t get a grasp on your stress levels.
Here are 5 ways to do it:
1. Identify the Source.
It’s a lifestyle change. The first step is to identify your main sources of stress. Is it your work? Bills? Relationships? Figure out the overarching issue, then try to really narrow it down. If work is a problem: is it deadlines or the specific nature of the job? Coworkers or the hours you have to spend doing the work? Trying to pinpoint your sources of stress will make it easier to manage.
2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
Many things are simply out of your control. In that situation, you have to learn to let them go somehow. If the little things get under your skin, consider different ways to address it so you can let it go: talk it out with a friend, practice meditation, or my personal favorite, run away from your problems (literally – go run).
3. Get Enough Sleep.
Nothing makes us crankier and more stressed than losing sleep. Sometimes our sleep schedule is out of your control. Whether it be work calendars, babies crying, or burning the midnight oil trying to finish up a project, doing your best to shut it down at a reasonable hour and hit the hay is honestly one of the most effective ways you can help reduce stress and other negative health side effects.
4. Fuel Your Body.
Making balanced choices by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables (including those dark leafy greens), whole grains, low fat dairy and lean proteins can absolutely affect your mood and stress levels. Resist the urge to ‘stress eat’ and choose something balanced that will fuel your body to keep you hustling all day long.
5. Find an Outlet.
Whether it’s daily meditation or yoga class, a 15 minute walk outside between meetings, or a morning run to get the blood pumping before work… you have to find what works for you and stick to it. Exercise is so important to help reduce and manage stress levels.
Adapted from the original article.
Marissa Thiry, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Orange County, CA with a passion for health, wellness, and delicious food. With her love of innovating in the kitchen and testing unique flavors from different cultures, Marissa helps others understand that eating should be an experience, not a task. Make a visit to read more from Marissa.