Stress Management: Slow Down and Focus!
Enjoy your comfortable modern existence by slowing down the pace of your life and relaxing more.
What is Stress?
Defining Stress will look different for individuals. By definition, stress is pressure or tension exerted on a material object and a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure seems to trend.
Many people are trying to grit through life with their hands on the proverbial wheels, white-knuckling every week. If you feel like this most of the time; then you are obviously under a lot of stress.
According to mentalhealth.org:
‘Stress is our body’s response to pressure. Many different situations or life events can cause stress. It is often triggered when we experience something new, unexpected, or that threatens our sense of self or when we feel little control over a situation.
We all deal with stress differently. Our coping ability can depend on our genetics, early life events, personality, and social and economic circumstances.
Our body produces stress hormones that trigger a fight or flight response and activate our immune system when we encounter stress. This helps when we encounter stress us respond quickly to dangerous situations.
Sometimes, this stress response can be useful: it can help us push through fear or pain so we can run a marathon or deliver a speech, for example. Our stress hormones will usually go back to normal quickly once the stressful event is over, and there won’t be any lasting effects.
However, too much stress can cause negative effects. It can leave us in a permanent state of fight or flight, leaving us overwhelmed or unable to cope. Long term, this can affect our physical and mental health.’
What Types of Stress Exist?
There are many types of stressors that people have in their lives. Familial, work-life balance, financial, interpersonal relationships, parenting, caring for others, meeting deadlines, there are so many situations that can send a person to tailspin at the thought of “getting another thing done,” or adding it to the TODO list.
Three significant players that cause stress are moving, death, divorce, and retirement. Stressing through these situations is entirely normal. Getting through each important life event is rough enough, coupled with high emotions!
What Are the Signs of Stress?
There are obvious signs that an individual is under an incredible amount of stress, and then there are some not-so-obvious signs that someone is going through a mental struggle. To be more socially accepted as humans, we tend to hide our emotions or pretend to be happy. After all, no one wants to hang out with the depressed dude in the corner, right?!
There are clear emotional patterns that occur when you are stressed:
- Feeling anxious, all the time, or for no good reason. A burning pit in your stomach, increased heart rate, and frustration.
- Feeling of being afraid. Perhaps you are not honest with your friend when they ask you, “how are you doing?”
- Feeling angry or aggressive toward your loved ones or strangers. Often, I see this with people who are “road raging”.
- Sadness can be felt in many ways. Many individuals I have been close with who experienced a deep sadness often described a physical pain that accompanied them.
- Feeling irritable, frustrated, and depressed usually go hand in hand and are often experienced simultaneously or interrelated. When your spouse asks you a simple question, have you SNAPPED back with a “that’s a dumb question,” or “really?!’
Having feelings is expected; you would be a psychopath if you didn’t have feelings about different things that happen in your day and life. How we process those feelings is the root of stress.
It is not okay to ignore your feelings; you have to embrace them, journey through them, and come out of them on the other side. Often happier, healthier, and a bit smarter than you were before. Experiencing growth can be scary and often force you to admit things about yourself that you never wanted to say out loud. Stress often bubbles up any insecurities, past traumas, self-confidence issues that we may keep buried in the graveyard of our minds.
What Does Stress Feel Like?
The physical effects of stress are sometimes subtle, and other times they hit you like a truck. There are many physical signs and symptoms of stress, including headaches, nausea, indigestion, digestive problems, shallow breathing or hyperventilation, sweating, heart palpitations, aches, and pains.
Coping mechanisms differ; some of us will drink every night because we have “pain” or just want to “relax” however you decide to cope with stress, I want you to know that it is still there!
Everyone experiences different stress levels in different ways:
- Some will withdraw from others
- Struggle with making decisions
- Experience sexual problems
- Have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep.
We may use these coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs more than usual to help ease the pains of stress.
Starting with examining diet and dietary patterns, we can see that our modern-day diet and our ancestral hunter-gatherer eating patterns are different. This is about more than just our dietary habits; this requires a little more reflection, considering our genetic expectations for the different stress and rest patterns of early life and the conflicting stress that is the essence of modern life.
Our ancestors generally lived by modern-day comparison–extremely mellow everyday lives. The stresses of our ancestors were typically brief, fight or flight situations that–if they survived– were learning experiences for their overall survival-of-the-fittest abilities.
Today, our life in the fast lane doesn’t even allow beach bums to live without the stress of a credit card late payment.
There is a beautiful book out there called The 21-Day Metabolism Reset. Written by Mark Sisson that says:
“However, you can leverage technology to make life easier instead of more stressful, and you can apply the same exceptional prioritization skills that you use to get through law school, manage your sales team, or keep the kids on schedule, making health and balance your top priorities. In addition to moving more, exercising sensibly instead of chronically, making sleep a priority, and eating a low-carb, high-fat diet, here are some suggestions to help you minimize the stress of a hectic daily life and nurture a healthy mind, body, and spirit..”
There is so much advice out there. I do not want to sound like another person claiming to have all the answers. I can, however, tell you what has worked for me in my journey to find more grace, relaxation, enjoyment, admiration in my everyday life.
- Forming and nurturing positive, uplifting social connections is one of the most profound longevity markers known–right up there with healthy eating, exercise, and sleep.
- Focus on genuine live interpersonal relationships, not digital ones. Create an intimate circle of close family and friends and a larger circle comprising of co-workers, neighbors, workout partners, or friends from hobby, community, or religious groups. Focus your energy on nurturing these circles with minimal energy toward external connections with larger groups or social media.
- There is an anthropologist and evolutionary biologist named Robin Dunbar that characterizes an authentic and robust personal relationship by an ability and willingness to do each other favors; I try to live by this. If that feeling is lacking with someone, then it is a perfect reminder about our genuine connection.
- Making eye contact, having meaningful conversations, not text conversations, and focusing more on face time than on Facebook has been a life-changing and incredibly fulfilling experience, and lowers stress levels tenfold.
Integrating these intentional connections with people has allowed mediocre acquaintances to turn into beautiful relationships. As a busy mother of four children, I need to depend on other mothers to help me out when I need an assist. We all need each other, but it cannot be so superficial. My friends should be trustworthy, decent people who have a genuinely healthier way of life. Developing a real-life face-to-face connection is so important to me.
Digital discipline, Gratitude journal, Exercise, Fun, Personal time, Motivation
Digital discipline is about disciplining your use of technology. How many of us sit with our children, right next to them, and scroll through social media?
I am not shaming you; I have done the same! My kids had a lot of questions about Instagram and Tok Tok videos, asking what does it mean? What are they saying? And why are they doing that dance?
In fact, the kids want to dance to these Tik Tok numbers and have me film them so that they can watch themselves over and over again. The fear that I could be raising mini narcissists crept in a long time ago, so I stopped social media access. I deleted the apps from my phone to control not only my impulses but also the kids.
When we reach out to family members, we do FaceTime, write letters, draw pictures, and mail things through snail mail. This form of communication is underappreciated. We all search for a quick response or give ourselves anxiety if a particular person doesn’t like a photo. Some of us express our emotions through pictured quotes and expect others to decipher our “secret messages.”
It’s no wonder why there are incredulous amounts of stress in people’s lives. We are all very saturated with what’s in front of a screen, exhausting ourselves of any good mental energy that may be left for crying children and significant others.
After A Stressful Day
We all deserve to unwind however we want, perhaps by indulging in a great selection of digital entertainment options. Before binge-watching, one or maybe three episodes of your favorite show, make sure the time is available. Sleep is necessary, and having a consistent bedtime is essential to your overall health and stress management. There needs to be a time when you disconnect.
Walking delivers the aforementioned metabolic benefits, and it is a great way to de-stress and even get a fresh perspective on problem-solving. Counterbalancing the long periods of inactivity at home and the workplace with your favorite fitness pursuit is the ultimate way to blow off steam. Take your extra energy out on your brisk walk, outdoors, or treadmill. A fitness club is an excellent place for social and convenience aspects but includes outdoor workouts to enjoy the additional benefits of fresh air, open space, and nature.
Lifestyle transformation is supposed to be fun. Instead of dressing about daily carb intake or looking like a social outcast at the next dessert club gathering.
Viewing your keto journey as a fun opportunity to try new foods in new ways, engage in some spontaneous and intuitive fasting efforts, and perhaps serve as a role model for others interested in transformation.
Mark Kisson, author of The 21 -Day Metabolism Reset, says:
“Yep, the dopamine burst we get from jumping to respond to a text message buzz today is akin to our ancestors’ urgent reaction to a rustling in the bushes. Consequently, it’s essential to be mindful of your programmed reactions to digital stimulation and disciplined about powering down. When you power down, you open yourself up to exciting new opportunities to make interactions with your partner, children, or friends to the next level of significance. Being healthy–ever superfit and super-healthy–should never involve any suffering or deprivation and can be fun.”
At first, if you are really into your social feed, you may experience FOMO. Trust me; you are not missing out on anything that you cannot see tomorrow or later in the day. The longer I put down my phone, the less I care to pick it up. When texts arrive, they no longer alarm me and send me into instant stimulation over what to respond with. Instead, the readers roll in, and I answer when I’m ready. Noone is angry about my sometimes untimely reactions to a photo or responses to a storybook text.
What I have learned about myself and the things that I thought used to cause me stress is that, most of these things are not time-sensitive. These have no place in my busy world causing me stress.
True success can only come when your endeavors are natural, enjoyable, and easy to maintain.
Ask yourself this question: is this overall journey fun, fulfilling, and bringing more happiness to my life?
If the answer is NO or even UH Maybe, that’s not good enough. It’s time to make some changes.
Sometimes changing the mechanics, such as quitting the hyper-competitive cycling club and enjoying more leisurely solo rides. Other times it’s shifting your mindset and getting over yourself, and allowing the fun and pure motivations to be rediscovered.
See you on the other side.