How to Nip Stress in the Bud Before It Explodes
We all know stress isn't good for us. When we're stressed, cortisol levels in our bodies increase, setting in motion all sorts of other changes including weight gain, a lack or loss of creativity, and exhaustion if we stay in this stage for a long period of time. In short, we are not at our best when we're stressed.
In my coaching programs, I also see stress derail people from their goals. They're stressed, so they eat things they know are bad for their health. They're stressed, so they can't sleep—and then they're too tired to exercise. The chain of cause and effect plays out a million different ways, but the result is never good.
When these things happen in our lives, it's easy to think "If only I weren't stressed, I wouldn't have this problem." The thing is... nobody's life is completely free from stress. Let me repeat that: NOBODY'S life is completely free from stress.
Instead, I've noticed that the trick is managing stress and learning to respond well to it. Here are some tips I've put together and am still working on implementing in my own life. If some of them seem basic and obvious, let me ask you: are these all things you do consistently in your own life? If so (or even if not), please comment below with your own favorite tips for beating stress. We can all learn from each other!
GET ENOUGH SLEEP. This is, like, my #1 tip for everyone, everywhere, in every situation. The simplest problems can seem totally overwhelming when we're sleep-deprived. If you think you don't have time to get in your 8 hours... stop what you're doing and go to bed. I guarantee you'll be more efficient with your work when you're rested.
DRINK ENOUGH WATER. Again, this may seem basic, but I find I'm significantly more tired when I'm dehydrated, so I aim for a gallon a day. It also affects my mood. If my water intake is low, watch out, folks! I get super grumpy and negative. If you've never tried drinking this much water, try increasing your intake gradually and see if it makes a difference for you.
FEED YOURSELF WELL. If you don't have time to cook, give yourself permission to spend money on healthy convenience foods: for example, pre-sliced veggies and guacamole or hummus bought from the store instead of made at home. Trust me, you're not doing anyone (including yourself) any favors by ordering a pizza to get you through this busy time.
CUT THE SUGAR AND DON'T OVERDO IT ON THE CAFFEINE. Look, I love coffee more than anyone. But even I notice that if I have more than 1-2 cups a day, it makes me grouchy and less productive. Probably something to do with being dehydrated (see #2). And sugar... forget about it. It gives you more energy for, like, 5 minutes. Then you're WAY worse off than you were before. If you need help kicking your sugar habit, please reach out to me (email address in footer). I help people with this every single month.
LEARN TO SAY NO. Seriously, what can you take off of your plate? What are you sitting there feeling like you HAVE to do, when in reality it isn't all that crucial? Be kind to yourself. Clear the clutter off of your to-do list so you can focus on the big project that's really important. People will be more understanding than you think. And even if they aren't, you'll live.
TAKE A BREAK. Even the firmest deadline can probably accommodate a five-minute walk around the block or at least a two-minute standing stretch break at your desk. Even better if you can do something that takes your mind off your work completely for a little while. Taking a break and coming back refreshed is the best way I know to break through writer's block. I'm betting it works for other types of creative blocks and burnout too.
PAMPER YOURSELF IN SMALL WAYS. If you've got to push through and keep working, can you make yourself a cup of tea in a flavor you enjoy? Play some music to boost the happy factor? Spritz some body spray or room spray as a sensory pick-me-up? If we never allow ourselves this type of indulgence, we feel deprived and it can end up coming out sideways, in the form of emotional eating or other unhealthy behavior. Show yourself that you believe you are worth taking care of. Because you are!