We can all use some help managing stress in our lives. Here are 7 very practical, free and easy tips for managing daily anxieties from Business Psychology Associates (BPA).
THE BINGE & PURGE PROBLEM: Do you experience a great deal of stress and anxiety all day only to go home in the evening feeling depleted? Once you are home, do you settle in to watch the news with a glass of wine or a beer, and plan your next visit to the spa or a weekend in the mountains? More often than not, this is how American workers relieve their stress - in a "binge and purge" fashion - stress all day with tiny compartments of relief here and there.
The trouble with the "binge and purge" approach to managing stress is that it can eventually lead to heart disease, obesity, mental health disorders, and a compromised immune system.
It's how you spend your days, not how you block out downtime that really matters.
The following are simple, free, and effective ways to decrease your toxic stress response and develop resilience:
- Apply the quick fixes to the "small stuff." Rather than muttering self-talk and rehashing the negative, solve the small problems right away and move on.
- If your job allows, take a walk every hour or so. Sitting at a computer screen with one's eyes intently glued to the screen with shoulders high and tight has been shown to engage our fight or flight response over time, even though we're in no real danger. Take a walk down the hall or in the parking lot to clear your mind and relax your body.
- Develop "perspective" skills. Learn to see concerns from multiple points of view. Not only does this allow you to become more empathetic, it generates new ideas and solutions.
- Lower your expectations. People who expect everything to go right often face disappointment and anger. If you expect interruptions and bumps in the road, they'll bother you less when they come up. Embrace adversity as an opportunity for growth.
- Adjust your breathing. Deep and slow breathing into the abdomen is central to relaxation. Drop your shoulders and follow your breath to a more relaxed state of body and mind.
- Take a vacation from the news. In an era of near-constant exposure to information and 24- hour TV news, we are bombarded with tales of misery and destruction. We absorb the anger, stress and pain of others and become sensitive and worried ourselves. People need to laugh (which increases blood flow and releases natural-high endorphins), so watch a comedy instead.
- Get your carbohydrates. This piece of advice may not sit well with some dieters. However, eating moderate amounts of high-fiber carbohydrates releases serotonin that calms moods (particularly in the late afternoon).
Spending the day in chronic stress mode means spending the day awash in hormones and other biochemicals that cause the body to resist and prepare for 'fight or flight' in unnecessary ways. Those people who develop resilience are less prone to illness and the social issues that accompany constant stress, worry, and fatigue. The key ingredient in developing resilience is to establish habits that relieve your stress response all day long in addition to the stress-free activities you design for your weekends and vacations.
Make the added effort to remain keenly aware of your resilience and ability to perform despite what is going on around you. Contrary to popular belief, stress and the common stress response do not lead to ideal performance and productivity.
Source: Business Psychology Associates (BPA), Boise, ID, provides behavioral healthcare solutions that help people improve their lives. Many Blue Cross of Idaho group customers have an Employee Assistance Program benefits provided by BPA. For more information visit www.bpahealth.com.