We can’t avoid stress. Nor do we always want to — sometimes it does produce positive results, such as resolve to get something done. But too often it creates more problems than it solves.
Signs of Negative Stress
Check which ones you frequently experience:
- Constantly tired
- Frequent headaches
- Nausea or stomach in knots
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritable, angry
- Lack in interest in things you used to find interesting
If you checked any of these, it’s worthwhile investigating whether stress is at the root of the problem. If it is, consider these steps to deal with it positively.
Four Stress Management Strategies
1. Use Food
While this isn’t the best strategy for managing stress, we’ve listed it first because it’s the one thing that weight-struggling women use often, yet believe they shouldn’t use at all! But denying ourselves comfort food when we really want it can be just as stressful as the stress we’re trying to manage in the first place.
The key is to make sure it’s not our only tool for managing stress – using food too often also adds the unwanted stress of weight gain. If you’re out of balance in this regard, expand your stress ‘toolbox’ with strategies such as those below. For more about using food, read Green Mountain’s article on Stress and Eating.
2. Get Active
Physical activity immediately makes us feel better and more energetic. But part of our stress is that we’re already short on time and long on things to do. But are we really too busy to take a walk? Generally, saying we’re too busy indicates resistance to the idea of physical activity in the first place.
Why do we resist such a feel-good strategy? Often because we’re doing it to burn calories, believing we have to hit target heart rates and walk a certain length of time for it to really ‘count.’ But that attitude again creates more stress than the physical activity resolves.
Think instead of moving for pleasure. What’s more relaxing than pleasure…walking on a sunny day, enjoying the sweet smell of spring, what a delight! If you can manage 30 minutes, or just 10 minutes here and there, whether you walk with a friend or alone in a beautiful scenic area — it all counts!
Other fun ideas:
- Dance. Put on a favorite CD and dance around the house, or join a ballroom,
- jazz, tap, salsa, country line dance class!
- Join a women-only fitness club. Extra motivation: Join with a friend.
- Grow tomatoes or flowers. Gardening works like a charm at relieving tension.
Pamper yourself-and give up the guilt. You deserve it!
- Glory in a bubble bath.
- Relax to calming music.
- Bury yourself in a good book–or at least a chapter or two.
- Play with your dog.
- Take a nap.
For the most part, meditation simply involves “being in the moment” by directing your attention to… anything, really, whether it’s a sound, breath, thought. Meditation serves as a starting point to becoming more aware throughout life, but on a very basic level, it also serves to calm and relax.
You don’t have to spend hours meditating or sitting in a pretzel pose. In fact, you may find that learning to be more “present” in each experience creates more time for yourself. Start by taking a few minutes to get quiet and watch your breath — literally just feel your breath coming and going in your body. That’s it. Or, try a walking meditation, which combines two powerful stress-relievers: physical activity and meditation. Here, focus on each footfall — how it feels to shift, swing, and place each foot.
By setting realistic goals, we can better accomplish them. Perhaps things at the bottom of our to-do list should be taken off altogether. Get help from other family members. Remember, you may have to trade perfectionism for a little free time.
Book Recommendation: For more information, check your local bookstore for books and recordings on meditation. One favorite book we recommend: Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.