15 Wicked Tips for Managing Stress

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Stress is a natural part of life, and while a little stress is healthy — it keeps us focused, motivated and generally on track — too much of it can cause your body and mind to go into panic mode, your body can hold on to extra weight, your brain can start to slow down or become anxious and relationships can start to suffer. When you’re continuously feeling overwhelmed and stressed-out, you may even become paralyzed and unable to do much of anything. It can become debilitating and start to control your life. Stress can lead to and manifest itself within the body in many physical, emotional and mental ways…

  • Chest pain and/or tightness
  • Pounding heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches, such as back and neck pain
  • Clenched jaws
  • Grinding teeth
  • Tight, dry throat
  • Indigestion and other digestion issues
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping and/or bloating
  • Increased perspiration, often causing cold, sweaty hands
  • Fatigue, drowsiness and brain fog
  • Insomnia or too much sleep (not wanting to get out of bed)
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin problems such as hives, acne, rashes, etc
  • Impaired sexual function
  • Feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression
  • Anger, resentment and bitterness
  • Headaches and migraines

Just as stress can negatively impact your life on many levels, so can the various coping methods used to “reduce” or numb the effects. Turning to food, sugar, alcohol or drugs often turns one set of problems into another and can eventually balloon out of control and completely destroy and wreak havoc on your life. It’s best to avoid these coping methods all together and learn more positive ways to keep your stress levels in check.

I’m going to give you 15 wicked tips that you can implement into your life right now to keep you from seeing red, getting anxious or feeling like a big tightly wound ball of tension and keep the stress monsters from nagging at you. These tips will help reduce the impact that stress has on you and those around you. Not all of them will work, apply or even resonate with you so take what you need and toss the others aside.

  1. BREATHE. When you feel that anxiety starting to build within your body – the tightness in your chest, sweaty palms, when your shoulders start to rise to your ears – take a few nice long deep breathes in an out through your nose. Begin to lengthen your exhales so they are twice as long as your inhales. Do about 10 rounds (or however many you can fit in, depending on the situation) then start to lengthen your inhales so they match your exhales. Lengthening your exhales helps to calm your central nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for our fight or flight mechanism.  Try this breathing exercise before engaging in an argument, before a test or prior to any activity that may cause you some form of stress. Using this breathing exercise can also help you fall asleep, so next time you are tossing and turning, reciting EVERY thing you forgot over the last 10 years, try to move into your breath and see how quickly you relax and drift off into Neverland.
  2. Meditate. Use visualization or guided imagery (you can find some great videos on YouTube or find a studio in your area that offers classes or lessons… I happen to know of a great one in Niagara {insert shameless plug here…} –> www.leelaspace.com) to teach you how to be one with your thoughts. Sit quietly with your eyes closed, imagining the sights, sounds and smells of your happy place – this is different for everyone, so it’s up to you to discover your own place of peace. Think of a time when you felt the most at ease, the most relaxed. Could it be a beach, mountain retreat, a luscious field of flowers or grass, a dark room, your man/woman cave or your childhood bedroom? 
  3. Do yoga. Yoga is a great way to slow down and tune into your body and mind. A regular yoga practice can lead to greater body awareness and bring more awareness into your thought processes. When we can tap into our thoughts and teach ourselves to tune out the negative, we can learn to live in the moment resulting in less anxiety, less monkey mind and just more peace in general! This type of awareness can take time to cultivate though, so be patient and don’t expect it to happen over night.
  4. Start a FUN and regular exercise routine. This can be anything from walking 30+ minutes a day to hitting the gym for an hour or so to throwing on some Pilates YouTube videos and rocking out in your bedroom – whatever it is, make it FUN. Find a way to move your body that makes you feel alive! Exercising releases endorphin’s which in turn make you happy!
  5. Start a gratitude journal. Each night before you go to bed or in the morning when you wake up, write down three things that you are grateful for. This list can include absolutely anything from being grateful you were able to find that pink nail polish that matches your new outfit to being grateful for the love of your children to having a roof over your head and food in the fridge. Turn to this list ANY time you start feeling anxious, not good enough, tight or stressed. Read through your list and be reminded of the greatness in your life. Gratitude is the quickest, most sure-fire way to change your outlook and start feeling good.
  6. Cultivate a sense of humour. Don’t be afraid to laugh. Go out with some friends or put on a funny movie and laugh your ass off! Laughter IS the best medicine after all!
  7. SMILE and think positive. Happiness is a choice. Simply choose to be happy and run with it. Don’t get me wrong sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, but the simple gesture of a smile can help you move away from anxiety and towards a more peaceful state.
  8. Deal with your problems and issues as they arise. Running from them or bottling them up will only make things worse and eventually lead to an explosion of anger or frustration later on down the road. When you manage things as they present themselves it frees up time and energy leaving you feeling refreshed and accomplished.
  9. Find a hobby or find something you LOVE doing and start doing it on a regular basis. Make sure this hobby won’t eventually lead you to stress though (think shopping or collecting shoes which will eventually lead to frustrations and added stress when your credit card statement arrives.)
  10. Break things down and prioritize. If you are a busy person with a lot on the go try managing your tasks by breaking them down and creating lists and prioritizing what needs to be done. When we have large projects on the go the grand picture can seem daunting and if you are anything like me, big projects sometimes seem so scary that you will avoid starting altogether and procrastinate until the last minute… not a strong ethic, I get that. I’m owning it though! Moving on…
  11. Music has the innate ability to soothe the soul and clear the mind. A good song can literally sweep you out of the moment and into your happy place. This is personal preference as well. Find what takes you away. Is it classical, rock, rap, classic rock, reggae? The list is endless. Experiment. Find what works for you. Some music can have the opposite effect and agitate the crap out of you, so try to pay close attention to how a song makes you feel when you listen to it.
  12. Dance! Dance like nobody is watching and hell, if somebody IS watching… who cares?! Dance anyways! Dancing is fun and an incredible stress reliever! Crank the tunes in your car or in your kitchen and just dance.
  13. Sex can be VERY energizing and therapeutic. Having a nice romp in the sheets releases those same happy hormones and endorphin’s that exercise does (hmm, a fun way to exercise perhaps!?). Feeling blue? Get your freak on! Keep it safe, keep it fun and don’t be afraid to laugh. Sex should be playful and help you release tension – not create it. If sex with your partner is NOT fulfilling, fun, playful and/or enjoyable perhaps we have discovered a factor in your stress-life and you should take a deeper look at your relationship and decide whether you need to make some adjustments or some ‘spicing up’ is in order. There is actually scientific proof that people that have more sex are more successful and just happier in general! I may have made that fact up, but I whole-heartedly believe that to be true!
  14. Cook. Some people, not unlike myself, can find peace within the kitchen. If you are NOT one of those people, move on to No. 15. Cooking is therapeutic, but so is eating… if you are stressed and you are cooking see if you can find someone to cook FOR so you don’t end up eating it all yourself. While healthy cooking is wonderful, oftentimes it is not your variety of choice when stressed. Think cupcakes, cookies and cakes… while tasty and delicious they can lead to stress within your body and can eventually lead to more stress because of food guilt and/or weight gain.
  15. Read. Books can be incredible little time machines that can take you away and get you lost in another world, century or fantasy island. Remove yourself from whatever stressful situation you are in, put on some comfy clothes, grab a tea and get down to business. It doesn’t take long for you to get sucked into a good book. Go with it.

Give yourself permission to escape from any situation that is causing you harm or negatively impacting your life. We all have the right to choose. ALWAYS choose happiness. ALWAYS choose love. In the end, the only thing that matters is that you respected yourself enough to walk away from any situation (or person) that isn’t serving you well. You owe it to yourself. Life is far too short to waste on negativity.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have your own healthy coping techniques that you would like to share? Have you tried any of the tips listed here? What worked for you, what didn’t?

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Are you in need of some assistance in managing your stress levels and keeping everything in check? I have quite extensive experience working in this department. If you feel you are ready to take some massive action towards clearing the stress channels, I can be reached at info@sheenacunning.com to set up a complimentary Strategy Session.

Sheena Cunning Sheena Cunning is a Certified Holistic Health Coach specializing in weight loss, clean eating, stress management, seasonal detoxes and digestive wellness. Sheena completed her training at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and operates her practice out of Niagara Falls, ON. She offers monthly workshops in-studio across the Niagara Region as well as online via webcast that air across the globe.

Sheena is also a Certified Yoga Teacher and runs a yoga studio out of Niagara Falls, ON. She specializes in pre and post-natal yoga, Vinyasa flow and traditional Hatha Yoga classes.

www.sheenacunning.com

Sign up for Sheena’s Healthy Foodie Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/wGwsH

Find Sheena on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LiveLongLifestyle

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