Stress Management 101

We all have stress…I mean it’s normal, right?!  Yes, absolutely.  So when does stress become harmful  and what can you do to reduce stress’ harmful effects on your mental and physical health?  Read on to answer those questions.

With the recent election, the campaigning prior to the election, and the reactions of Americans since the election, there has been a lot of stress felt across our country.  I don’t know about you, but just reading my FB feed has become stressful and occasionally traumatic.  In addition, we’re all beginning to plan for the upcoming holiday events, thinking about having family members together who don’t always get along, and how to discuss politics around the family table.  Needless to say, we are surrounded by stress and stressful events.

Did you know there are actually two kinds of stress?  There is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).  Good stress helps us focus, proves a sense of urgency, and can help us complete tasks more efficiently.  Distress, on the other hand, causes a host of physical and mental symptoms that can actually keep us from doing our best work and living our best lives.

There is another differentiating factor to stress, too: acute versus chronic stress.  Acute stress is felt when someone is approaching a deadline.  It lasts for a finite amount of time and for a specific reason.  Chronic stress is a heightened amount of stress for a prolonged amount of time.  It’s as though your daily “bar” or threshold for stress is at a higher level than before and it begins to seem like your new normal.

What are some examples of events or interactions that cause stress?

  • discontent at work
  • fear of termination/loss of a job
  • relationship or family trouble
  • illness or death of a loved one
  • planning events (weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties)
  • getting married, divorce, separation
  • moving
  • financial obligations
  • traumatic events
  • family get-togethers
  • having a baby
  • TV, news media, social media

Many of us believe that a little stress is normal, and that it might even help us perform better.  The problem is that we say we can handle a little stress to finish a project, or to finish planning an event, but then one project leads to another and then another and soon our stress level is increased indefinitely.

So what does stress actually do to us, anyway? How would I know if I’m experiencing the effects of stress?  If you are experiencing any of the following, you’re likely experiencing stress at a moderate to high level.  (If these symptoms are prolonged or intense you may need to seek medical assessment and treatment.)

  • headaches
  • chest pain
  • high blood pressure
  • fatigue or trouble sleeping
  • upset stomach & digestive issues
  • anger or irritability
  • sadness or depression
  • overeating, over drinking
  • anxiety
  • weight gain or loss
  • skin conditions
  • nail biting, leg bouncing
  • loneliness/isolation
  • having a negative perspective on most life events

For women, some effects of stress are even more pronounced.

  • Women are 10 times more likely than men to develop eating disorders due to stress
  • stomach issues
  • skin reactions
  • sleep deprivation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • heart disease/heart attacks
  • cancer/breast cancer
  • lowered immune response

So what can you do to help prevent, treat, or combat your high stress levels?  There are many things you can do.  Below is a diverse list of activities, but it’s far from exhaustive.

  • watch a comedy movie or attend a comedy show
  • play with a pet
  • get a manicure or pedicure
  • get a massage
  • read a book for pleasure
  • savor coffee or hot tea
  • journal your stress, emotional responses
  • journal about your hopes and dreams
  • practice a deep relaxation exercise
  • add breathing techniques into your day
  • move your body
    • 10 minute movements throughout the day
    • standing from your office chair every hour
    • walking around the office or around the block
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • stretching
  • improve your diet
    • eat quality protein, veggies, Omega-3 fatty acids, ginger
  • get enough sleep
  • socialize–spend face-to-face time with friends
  • dance
  • avoid drama
  • take a bath
  • take a walk
  • reduce screen time (TV, computer, phone, tablet, video games)
  • Avoid stressors (such as the news, scary movies, social media negativity)
  • express your feelings to trusted friends, family members, or colleagues
  • laugh
  • put things into perspective
  • connect with nature
  • slow down, live in the present moment
  • use your five senses–notice smells, what colors do you see, notice how something feels in your fingers, what do you hear, how does something taste
    • actually take time to intentionally feel the lotion you’re putting on your hands
    • notice the warmth of the blanket you’re napping under
    • notice the color in the leaves of the trees
    • smell the dinner your partner is cooking
    • see the food you ordered at a restaurant before taking a picture of it for social media
  • spend time doing things you enjoy (hobbies, athletics, museums, etc.)
  • learn to say “no” without feeling guilty
  • light a candle
  • reduce your caffeine intake
  • take time to relax
  • use your vacation time
  • cook or bake
  • practice gratitude: what are you thankful for, experience the gratitude, share gratitude with others

Perhaps most important is that we reflect on our current situation and STOP EXCUSING our level of stress thinking “let me just get through this one __________ (project, dinner, event, etc.)” because what inevitably happens is that one project or deadline leads into the next and the next.  We MUST prioritize our health, wellness, and sanity by prioritizing our stress management.  We can do this by creating a daily or weekly routine for self-care.

What could you be doing on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis to care for yourself? 

Some ideas for each time frame are below. (Many of the things listed below could occur more often than I’m suggesting here–there is no limit to your self-care routine!)

Annually: take a vacation, use your sick time, attend a conference, take a class
Quarterly: review the goals you’ve achieved, go to the movies, attend a theater production
Monthly: date nights, coffee with a friend, massage, send a card to someone
Weekly: religious event, counseling appointment, yoga, manicure, dance, sing
Daily: breathing technique, take a walk, journal your gratitude, walk your dog, love

While it’s true we all have stress in our lives, what we don’t all have is an intentional practice for managing our stress.  If you would like to create a self-care routine, or if you have a vision for your life that you would like to clarify or achieve, please email me at Nikki@GroundedVisionCoaching.com.  I offer free discovery coaching sessions and I’d love to see how I can serve you and if we would be a good fit to work together.

Dr. Nikki Tobias
Certified Life & Career Coach
Grounded Vision Coaching & Consulting

Nikki@GroundedVisionCoaching.com
(717)515-0820

Remember The Caregivers!

(Editor’s Note: Gina & Russ – fellow coaches and friends in New Jersey – have different cancer experiences and collaborated on this blog for the benefit of you and those around you.)

GINA:

Sometimes we are so caught up in our recovery that we forget about the needs of others. It wasn’t until almost a year after my first surgery for a double mastectomy that I became aware of what my husband was going through in terms of my cancer diagnosis. I was so involved in taking an active role in my recovery (not to say that this is not a positive action) and the well-being of my children that it didn’t even dawn on me what my husband was going through in the process and I don’t even think he thought about himself either since his primary focus was caring for me.   So this one day about a year after my surgeries and treatment we were having a discussion and he described to me how difficult it was for him not to worry about recurrence of my cancer and it opened up a door to a conversation about the emotions of what he had been feeling all throughout the year long experience we had been through.

I was actually devastated at the thought that I hadn’t even been focusing on what he was going through internally. Caregivers, while they are carrying their own burden can sometimes get lost in the journey. We have to be consciously aware of the emotions that they are going through in the process as well and this is why it is so important for caregivers to feed themselves while caring for their loves ones and for us as survivors, even though we are carrying our own load, to recognize the pain of what our caregivers are experiencing and to simply say: “Thank you” for remaining by our side.

When we look back it’s all so simple, all we have to do is have a conversation, speak up, express our feelings and ask for what we need and what the other person needs in return even if we are afraid to do so.

It’s all about fluid conversations and getting past our fears so that we can remain united and healthy in facing our journey together.

So today, I ask that you tell your caregiver how much their love and support has meant to you on your journey and to ask them what they are experiencing and feeling so that you can give back to them in return.

RUSS:

Gina makes such excellent points.  I so admire her for her strength and insight (and of course her friendship).  Luckily for me, I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer.  My Mom has though – Stage Zero Breast Cancer this Summer.  I can say now that it has had a happy ending.  She’s finished with her radiation and doesn’t need chemo.  Thank goodness.  We’re all very grateful. 

Overall, my experience as a caregiver was positive, because of the support of those around me.  I needed them just like my Mom needed me.  Somewhat early on in her process of dealing with the cancer, I asked if it was alright with her if I posted about it on my Facebook, and luckily for me, she said “please do whatever it takes to get the support you want and need”.  Because of the work I do as an Entrepreneur and Coach, my use of social media is rather frequent and I talk a lot about what’s going on in my life personally and professionally.  For that period where I was coming to terms with what may happen and what was happening, but hadn’t mentioned it broadly, I felt as if I wasn’t living an authentic life.  For me, talking about it publicly was needed.  Much-needed actually.  Once I announced it, the floodgates opened with love and support that still hasn’t stopped 3.5 months later.  It energizes me, and my Mom, who very much appreciates the kind words from people she’s met and many she’s never met.

This may resonate with you, or you may have a very different style.  Whatever you need is your decision, and I’d bet that the people around you will support you in however you want to be treated. 

Here’s my message for everyone reading this:  If you’re a patient, carve out just a little time for the caregivers in your life.  If you’re a caregiver, take time for your own self-care.  Think about what you need and then don’t be shy in telling others.  Lastly, if you know a caregiver, ask them what they need and how you can best support them.

Good luck on your journey!

Love,

Gina & Russ


Gina Costa-Goldfarb is a breast cancer survivor and Certified Professional Coach. She helps women diagnosed with breast cancer cope, step by step, with the emotional and physical challenges they experience, so they gain confidence and feel in control of their life again. For more on her, go to www.newbeginningswithgina.com.


Russ Terry is a Gratitude guru who’s helping to make the world a happier and more grateful place.  Earlier this year, he published his first book:  My Gratitude Journal:  365 days of the people & things I’m grateful for and the lessons you can learn from them.  He has two more books on Gratitude due out in 2015. For more on him, go to www.russterrylifecoach.com.