Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stress Sucks...

This isn’t a normal vegan blog post. The subject though is something almost everyone can relate to…STRESS.

The nasty six letter word that wrecks havoc on your energy, digestion, head, attention span, memory, appearance, confidence and anything else you might need in order to sit up straight and work a normal office job.

I’ve neglected my blogging due to stress and wanted to share some of what I have learned in dealing with a sequence of intense and overwhelming stressful situations. ((This is coming off a two-month span of some of the greatest anxiety filled moments I have experienced in my life.))

BREATHE – Sounds simple, but slow long, deep breaths, ten of them – where you breathe in filling up your stomach, then your lungs and then slowly let it all out. Under intense stress, I find that I actually hold my breath, so the word breathe becomes a mantra for me at times. You can sit and breathe deeply in absolutely any situation and you are taking care of yourself. Concentrating on your breath also gives you something specific to think about other than the 100 million other things that may be happening around you while you are breathing deeply.

EAT HEALTHY – Have small healthy snacks on hand. If you have problems with stress or high cortisol levels even small stressors like feeling hunger pains can trigger your body to release more cortisol. So if you are maxed out on stress, keep something healthy at hand like fruit, snack bars, carrots or banana chips to help satisfy your hunger and keep you from stressing out your body more than necessary.

TAKE A MENTAL HEALTH DAY – If what you are really “needing” is a day at home away from everyone and everything because you have kept yourself TOO BUSY – then take care of yourself and take that day! Read a book, put on your favorite music and dance, go for a drive and sing at the top of your lungs, or do something creative like drawing, crafting, sewing, writing…what ever fulfills you. Do this for yourself. It will relax you and give you an outlet to release some of the built up tension and stress.

AVOID ADDICTIVE TRIGGERS – For me that would be shopping. I can find an excuse to shop at any time. I can always think of some reason I NEED to go to Express, and it doesn’t matter if I lost my card (or did I put it through the shredder?) That is okay! They will look up my account for me…

When you are really stressed out stay away from your triggers (Casinos, malls, bars, strippers, whatever your trigger might be – stay away!!) It doesn’t really make you feel any better. Although, I do love the dress I splurged on and probably won’t have paid off until next year. All of that love doesn’t change the fact that there are other issues or feelings at hand that are being avoided by diving into an addictive behavior. (Ugh, I know that reality really sucks when you think about it like that doesn’t it!?!)

PUT YOURSELF FIRST – Make decisions based on what you really need. Is this really the best thing for you? Are there things you can be doing for yourself which will help? If you are always running late to a meeting, set appointments with a 15 minute cushion. So if an appointment starts at 2:30 put on your calendar that it starts at 2:15…

Budget in a 15 minute break each day to take care of your personal needs that you put off or don’t do because you feel like you don’t have time. For me this is the time to make a doctors appointment, or call to find out exactly what I need to take to the DMV to finally legally change my last name back to my maiden name. ((Oh, and while on that call I got the hours available and directions on how to get there, average wait time, etc. so I could budget enough time in my calendar.))

And, also on that note – make the list of personal things you need to take care of along side your work to do list. This way you don’t “forget” to take care of yourself.

TAKE CONTROL of the things you have control over – that is your actions and reactions to situations and events. What other people do or say are not within your control.

For me, I took control of my finances. Months after my divorce, our house is still on the market and I am paying half a mortgage and rent. (I can’t control the real estate market) So, I decided to lower my car payment and get a cheaper place to live. (I can control this.) With a few well thought out decisions, I was able to lower my monthly expenses by $400. (Now when the house sales I really can go shopping!)

As soon as I started making smarter financial decisions a series of unexpected financial gains came my way: I made $400 at a garage sale, my car dealer sent me back a $460 check because they estimated the payoff on my old car incorrectly, a last minute call for help on a photo shoot resulted in my earning $135, and I got a raise at work when I moved into a new position. Let’s just say this relieved A LOT of stress.

STIMULATION – Yes, sexual stimulation is doctor recommended for stress relief. (Not kidding here – it really was doctor recommended) It gives you one more reason to take care of yourself.

EXERCISE – Even if you only fit in 5 or 10 minutes. Keep your body moving. If this is stressful to you, do something more low impact like Yoga. Yoga is my go to exercise when under intense stress. It has the breathing exercise, body exercise, stretching, mental relaxation – all combined together.

ASK FOR HELP! – The best help I have found, advice and real world results, has been from visits to a naturopath and my chiropractor.

I recommend: Dr. Jason Bradley in Iowa City, naturopath (wish I could find a Dr. Bradley here in Des Moines!) If you are not in Iowa City, follow him on Facebook, he posts some really great information.

Hassel Family Chiropractic in Des Moines, Dr. Hassel has been tremendously helpful to me in motivation, encouragement, and checking in on how I am .