Note: This week, I’m hosting a series where I will be publishing one post each day on the theme of 7 Days to Build a Better Body. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since beginning the “fitness lifestyle” over 15 years ago, it’s that you can’t radically transform your body in just one week, or one month for that matter. These things take time. But you can make good progress and set the stage for future, ongoing success in a very short period of time – and still have a life! And that’s what this week is all about – giving you some ideas, tips, and tools for improving your health and fitness not only this week, but for the long haul. If there’s enough interest in this week’s series, I’d love to do a month-long series that goes into much more depth in the future. Let me know if you’re interested by signing up for the waiting list at the bottom of this post.
Stressed out most of the time? Yeah. You and everyone else. And most people don’t have even the slightest clue on how to effectively manage their stress in a healthy and positive way. Or, they just don’t want to deal with it. And can you blame them? They’re too stressed out!
Unfortunately, it seems like the knee-jerk reaction to stress is to “manage it” with things that don’t work at all. Things like…
- Ignoring the problem or hiding from it, and powering through life anyway.
- Eating or drinking away your problems (e.g. food, alcohol, caffeine, etc.).
- Distracting yourself with entertainment or an addiction (e.g. TV, Internet, smoking, drugs, etc.).
And while some of those things may seem to help, they usually make things worse over the long haul.
So, here are five better stress management strategies that are simple, easy, and have been proven to work.
5 of the Most Effective Stress Management Strategies
There are many ways to manage stress. Here are some of the most effective solutions…
1) Get your mind right.
Depending on your situation, you may need to get out of your head. Or, it might be better if you get INTO your head to figure out what’s causing the stress. Try to figure out what the root of the problem is. Name it. Describe it. And figure out the best way to deal with it. Regardless, acknowledge that you can’t control everything, and then focus on what you can control, like how you respond to stress. Don’t wait until you hit rock bottom before doing something about it.
Also, stay positive and pay attention to the good things in your life. Look for them. They are there! Ask yourself each day what you’re grateful for – even if it’s as simple as food, shelter, or high-speed internet. Find someone who will listen. Try a silence practice to learn how to witness your thoughts. Visualize yourself overcoming your challenges. Or, do some journaling if it’s helpful (you can learn how I do it here – see step 3).
The more that you can get your mind on your side, the better for your health and quality of life.
2) Take care of your body.
When you’re stressed out, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is getting plenty of exercise, eating a healthy diet, and sleeping enough. But this is what you need more than ever.
Stress wears you down mentally, emotionally, and physically. That’s why it’s important to counteract the negative stress with positive stress. And one of the absolute best ways to do that is to get moving! Almost any physical activity will help, and some of the best stress-reducing options would be:
- Going for a walk or easy run, especially in a natural environment (e.g. hiking or trail running).
- Any form of mindful movement that requires you to focus such as yoga, tai chi, martial arts, or dance.
- Any form of recreation, sport, or physical activity that you enjoy.
Need more ideas? Here are 100 ways to disguise exercise.
Note: Make sure you’re not doing too much exercise that will add to your overall stress load. So, if you’re extremely or chronically stressed out, you should probably avoid high intensity exercise for the time being (e.g. no crazy Crossfit WODs on top of your already stressed out self). But most low and moderate intensity forms of physical activity will be helpful.
Even a few minutes of physical activity will go a long way, and the more fun, engaging, and invigorating, the better. So, just do the best you can – even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day. Set a small goal to stick with every day, and make time for yourself.
3) Add more nature to your life.
Our body’s were designed to thrive in a natural environment. And when we’re removed from that natural environment, not only does that stress us out in-and-of-itself, it also makes it harder for us to manage stress when it does come upon us.
Fortunately, time and time again, exposure to nature has been shown to lower stress and revitalize the body – even for people who live in a high-tech, concrete jungle. It’s like a miracle drug with no side effects.
The easiest way to get started with this is to simply get some fresh air and sunlight (e.g. vitamin D). You could also go to a park, do some hiking, or any other outdoorsy activity. Even surrounding yourself with plants and looking at a picture of a natural landscape has been shown to lower stress levels.
But by far, spending time outdoors in nature with no other cares in the world is the best option there is. If a weekend camping or backpacking trip is out of the question, consider a day hike, half day hike, or just an hour or two at the park when you get a chance. Carve out some time in your schedule and block it off for this. It’ll do your body and your mind good.
4) Get your life in order.
Maybe you’re thinking…
That’s easy for YOU to say.
And I can’t blame you for feeling that way. But there are many simple choices, changes, and habits that are quick and easy to implement that can make a big difference.
You can start by simply doing less. Cut out the non-essentials. Learn how to manage your time. Protect your time. Reevaluate your priorities. Set some personal boundaries. Practice saying “no.” Silence your phone. Turn off the news.
Spend more time with the people you love, and doing the things you love. Reach out to an old friend. Play with your pets. Listen to your favorite music. Turn it up. Dance like nobody’s watching. Work in your yard. Read a good book. Do something just for fun. Stop trying to be perfect.
And most importantly, always be asking yourself if your daily actions are leading you to your goals. Is your day-to-day life in line with your purpose, values, and priorities? Are you focusing on the right stuff?
Difficult times are a great opportunity to reevaluate all of this life stuff.
5) Learn how to rest and relax.
You need to learn how to rest, and especially how to sleep – deeply and peacefully. This post will teach you how: The Definitive Guide to Sleeping Like a Baby Every Single Night: 20 Tips to Troubleshoot Your Sleep so that you can Spring out of Bed Each Morning Ready to Dominate Your Day (a No-Nonsense, Step-by-Step Guide on Sleeping Well).
Apart from sleep, you should also look into the many different breathing exercises like box breathing, which works like a charm for instantly reducing stress. It’s one of my go-to strategies, and I use it almost daily – even when I’m not feeling stressed out. There’s also prayer, meditation, visualization, and many others. Some of these are often best when combined with yoga, tai chi, qigong, or other gentle exercise. So, pick one or two areas that interest you and devote some time to learning and practicing them daily.
Finally, attack the stress directly by doing something relaxing at least once a week like taking a bath, getting a massage, sitting in the the sauna or a hot tub, or just savoring your favorite hot drink. Treat yourself. Just make sure that this doesn’t take the place of the other important strategies on this list.
If you learn and apply some of these strategies, you’ll have a “toolbox” for whenever stress creeps up on you. And you’ll be much better off using these tools than almost anything else.
Now, if you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends. And please tune in for the rest of the series this week, too. Each day, I’ll be sharing some good stuff on how to build a better body, including some tips on how to get un-chair shaped, healthy home hacks, and what to do on your “off days”, among others. You can find links to some of the other posts in the series at the very bottom of this post.
And if you’re interested in a month-long series on building a better body, please let me know by signing up for the newsletter (i.e. waiting list). If I get enough interest, I’ll try to put something together after the New Year.
Health-First Fitness Coach
Photo credit: 1.