The Ultimate Guide To Stress Management
As I have worked through various training programs, I have found them very difficult to institute into my life. I am already busy and adding in training makes an already busy schedule hectic. Frequently, I have burned myself out and totally crashed. Where did I go wrong? I had completely ignored stress management. This was very common for me in the past since I had no concept of what stress management was. I would take on more and more tasks until I literally crashed and burned. There was no middle ground or even a sane ground. My life frequently spun out of control. I was not only tiring myself out, but I was also affecting my health.
It wasn’t until I began to integrate some stress management techniques that I was able to recover. This along with some efficiency improvements and hacks allowed me to live a normal life. It took me a long time to learn these lessons, but when I did, I saw my health, vitality, and free time improve. Integrating stress management into my life became an integral part of my everyday practice.
Are You Suffering From Chronic Stress?
In today’s day and age, we have so many obligations. Whether it is taking a child to a sports game or attending a weekly organization meeting. We do a lot for ourselves and for others. Obligations have only increased in the digital age as communication moves online. People are becoming more and more stressed as they try to manage their digital and personal lives. Adding in training can create complete overburden and hurt health instead of creating it. Stress management is key to preventing burnout and halting the damaging effects on your health.
First, you need to be realistic with your stress levels. How often do you feel run down? Are you running from activity to activity? Has there been a confluence of events that have resulted in you feeling like nothing can go right? Write down how you are feeling or journal about your feelings. Get your feelings on paper so you can better define them. Take this test to get a good idea of where you are right now.
Stress Destroys Good Health
Reducing stress is essential to everyday health. High-stress levels can cause weight gain, disease, depression, and poor sleep to name just a few. It is an often ignored cause of many poor health characteristics. In fact, you should deal with stress first before anything else. High-stress levels will erode anything else you do for your health. Stress is not meant to stick around the body. When it does it causes some very bad side effects.
Cortisol also rises during high-stress times which can result in weight gain. When cortisol is released, insulin is as well. A rise in insulin results in lower blood sugar levels and cravings. This is where we see the much talked about stress eating.
Clearly stress is not good for the body except in dangerous situations (jumping out of the way of a car). Where do you begin to manage stress? How do you add in training to an already busy life without increasing stress levels? Through much trial and tribulation, I have found a few key methods to improve your stress management, and therefore improve overall health.
Meditate to Stop Stress at the Source
I have been meditating every day for almost 6 months now. I love it so much that I haven’t missed more than a day or two at this time. Meditation is an amazing way to start your day out right and reduce stress throughout the day. There is something beautiful about sitting with nothing, but your thoughts. I have seen improvements in all areas of my life from relationships to training. Meditation has enhanced my life in ways I didn’t even know were possible.
You may think meditation is super hippy-dippy and not for you, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Meditation has proven health benefits. It can help treat medical conditions and reduce stress levels. It improves mood, helps control emotions, and enhances creativity. Meditation is no joke; you can feel the difference it makes in your body inside and out. If you need more convincing, realize that the top performers around the world use meditation to maintain and increase performance.
So how do you begin a meditation practice? The easiest way to begin is to do five minutes every morning when you wake up. Anyone can spare five minutes. Don’t be the person with the excuse that you don’t have five minutes to meditate. Find a quiet space and get to sitting. Begin with just focusing on your breath and letting thoughts pass.
There are many types of meditation and it is really about finding what works for you. The most important thing is to make it easy. You don’t have to sit in a cross-legged position. You can do it anywhere. The best way to start is by just sitting in a chair with good posture. I recommend using Headspace to start with a guided meditation. It is an awesome app that can get you going on the right path. You can also use The Meditation Oasis podcast.
Change the Way You Think About Breathing
Deep breathing has amazing effects. It can reduce stress quickly and at the source. It is something you can do anytime and anywhere. There are many breathing techniques, but the easiest way is to take a few deep breathes when you are feeling stressed. It is incredible to feel the stress melt away with this simple process. Take 1 minute when you are feeling stressed and take some deep breathes.
If you want to get even more advanced there are several daily breath practices that can enhance your life and reduce stress even more. Try one that works for you! I found the 4 count method to be easy and very relaxing. This involves breathing in through the nose for a count of 4 seconds, holding the breath for 4 seconds, breathing out through the mouth for 4 seconds, and finally holding the breath for 4 seconds. Repeat this for a minute or two to get the full benefit.
Wim Hoff is an amazing visionary who is doing some amazing things with simple breathe control. His method has produced amazing results from controlling the immune system to allowing for extreme cold weather adaption. Check out some of his methodologies or download the Innerfire App (only $4 and well worth it). When trying this method do not do it in water while driving, while standing up, or without proper approval from your medical caregiver. It takes some experience to really do it right since it can cause you to pass out. However, it is definitely worth a try. The results are astounding.
Train to Release Stress
Stress management is inherent with all the aspects that come from training. Training gets you moving and breaks you away from the stress of everyday life. It is a way to forget about what is stressing you out. Use training as a release from the stressors ruling your daily life. Getting outside while training can be a huge endorphin bump and leave you smiling all by itself!
You can even combine meditation and training to get the best of both worlds. The best way to do this is to be mindful of your movement. Feel the impact of your feet on the ground and just be present. Pay attention to your swimming form or bike pedaling. Just be present in your movement. This will also help training fly by. Chi running has also become very popular and is a great thing to learn and add to your arsenal.
There is an important caveat with training and stress. Don’t add so much in that you cause more stress! If you are tired and worn down do not keep training. It will only hurt you in the long run. There are way too many athletes out there that burn themselves out by training too much. We already have a lot on our plates. Figure out a realistic amount of hours you can dedicate to training every week. Pay attention to your body and stop training when you need to.
Find a Fun Hobby to Own Stress Management
Too many times we get sucked into work and training ignoring other parts of our lives. Don’t forget to live a little. Go do something that you love. Whether this is going for a walk outside or painting, take some time to do something you enjoy. Just like training, these activities can take your mind off the daily grind. They should be easy and fun. Use them as an excuse to play. Too often people are too serious and forget that life is fun.
Feeding my hiking and waterfall habit!
Find activities that make you laugh and relax. Laughter is often the best medicine for stress relief. It literally changes the inner workings of your body releasing endorphins to help your mood. You should never live such a crazy life that you don’t have some time to do what you love.
Spread the Love
Being open and grateful to friends and family eliminates stress immediately. It’s another activity that increases endorphins. Tell people how much you care about them. Spread the love around you by just being a loving and happy person. You will see your mood improving along with those around you. Do a random act of kindness. This can be totally anonymous. You will be surprised at how great this makes you feel.
Starting a gratitude practice can be just as fulfilling. Take 5 minutes every morning to write down what you are grateful for. There are a lot of great journals out there, but you can also just use a notebook. Gratitude can show you all the support and love you have around you. It is something you can do every day to make yourself feel better! We can become trapped in negative thoughts; a gratitude practice allows us to bring much-needed positivity into our lives.
Sleep Better and Longer
Sleep is an overlooked key to good health. Poor sleep can result in raised cortisol levels increasing stress levels. There are so many side effects including depression, poor focus, and overeating from lack of sleep. Sleep is essential to good health and as important as nutrition and training. Often we ignore sleep because it is the first thing we sacrifice to be more productive. Don’t do this. Getting more sleep can actually increase productivity.
When we sleep, we recharge our body and mind allowing us to handle more the next day. Poor or infrequent sleep can result in being very unproductive. Think about all the times you have not gotten enough sleep and were not able to do anything the next day. Although you may be spending more time sleeping, you will more than make up for that time in productivity. Sleep also increases your lifespan and longevity.
Make sure you are getting to bed at the same time and creating a sleep haven. Sleep will reset your mind and body while decreasing stress. Don’t sacrifice your sleep. If you want to learn more about sleep check out my comprehensive post on sleeping smarter for optimal health.
Eliminate the Waste!
Too often our lives are crowded with activities that make it impossible to have five minutes to ourselves. We are running from work to soccer games to meetings. In between all of this, we have to take care of our families and ourselves. Most people do way too much and are not even aware of it. Find the activities that are the biggest time wasters for you. Do you really need to be there? Ask yourself, is this activity adding value to my life? If the answer is no, get rid of it!
You need to optimize your life so you can do what you want to do. This will leave you far less stressed and ready to take on the activities you need to. Don’t be the crazy person who doesn’t have a spare minute to stop and enjoy some alone time. You can also batch activities to increase efficiency. Do all of your cleaning or cooking at the same time. You would be surprised at what you can batch.
It is also possible to optimize the activities that you have to do. Be innovative and have fun with it. Can you reduce commuting time by working different hours or working from home? Think outside the box. Eliminating waste and increasing efficiency can really help your stress levels. Learn to find activities you love and get rid of the waste! Check out my comprehensive post on creating efficiency for more info.
Put It All Together To Own Stress Management
Stress is everywhere in our lives and even an innocuous event can bring it out. You must be hyper-aware of it when huge life-changing events happen such as losing a loved one. Stress has so many ill effects that you need to work on eliminating before you can really do anything else. It will limit your training and nutrition making them nearly impossible. As highlighted there are a lot of things you can do to eliminate stress:
- Meditate everyday
- Start a breathing practice
- Start a training routine
- Find a fun hobby
- Spread the love and start a gratitude practice
- Sleep more!
- Eliminate the waste
Try even one of these things and see how it affects your stress levels. All of them can help reduce stress and let you live a healthier life. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Find what works for you and make it a daily practice! Don’t continue to live with stress; it can limit your potential every day. Incorporate these stress management techniques to live a better and healthier life.
Happy as a clam biking in Sydney, Australia!
What do you do to reduce stress? Do you employ any of these techniques? Do you find yourself frequently burnt out? How have you integrated training into your daily routine without causing too much stress? Let me know in the comments. As always let me know if you have any questions.