Health
December 2, 2020
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Non-destructive ways to cope with stress

By: Steven Campbell
October 9, 2020

The October 2 headline for the Community Voice reads “Here we again, Glass Fire!”

The term “Here we go again!”  is being used a lot in 2020; months of being cooped up, living paycheck to paycheck, breathing in smoke and hourly political changes in Washington, D.C.

2020 has been extremely stressful, and stress can bring out the worst in us, and the worst choices.

Personally, if I’m stressed, my natural response is to reach for comfort food; chocolate chip cookie batter is the worst! After however, I’m left feeling overstuffed, guilty and definitely more stressed. 

In fact, cookie batter doesn’t solve anything and makes things worse. Other unhealthy responses to stress include shopping, drinking alcohol, overworking, zoning out through video games, gambling, drugs…there is a long list of ways that we try to deal with the troubles of life. 

Let’s face it, all of us have a few favorites that we turn to when things get tough.

So here are some of six suggestions to help you deal with stress. Have a look through and pick one or two to start using. 

Meditation

Do a breathing meditation to induce the "Relaxation Response." (Google “Psychology Today Medication” to get some excellent insight on meditation.)

Many of my clients are slightly anxious and stressed right now, so they meditate as a daily foundation to keep them calm. In fact, you can use it at any time when you really feel stressed. 

And when they practice meditation regularly, our brain architecture can physically change. Your stress center, the amygdala, will shrink and your more rational cortex will increase in size, helping you to be calmer and more focused in life. It’s truly amazing—such a powerful and healing way to cope.

A brisk walk 

When you’re really upset or stressed, take a time out and go for a walk. Walking off your negative emotions can prevent you from saying or doing something destructive in the heat of the moment.

It is also an excellent way to reduce stress! The one-two rhythm of walking can also induce the relaxation response and help your brain to subconsciously solve your problems.

Write

Stress can take over your mind. Worries run in circles and free-floating anxieties can float around uncontrollably.

However, when you put a pen to paper and start detailing what’s going on, things really come into perspective. Worries become concrete and perhaps even solvable. I often find that as I write about my stressors, solutions or next steps become clear. In fact, Dr. John Shonkoff from the Harvard University center has discovered that while we write, our brain is making about one million new connections per second!

So the process of writing is so grounding and cathartic. It is the reason that I have written over 300 of these articles over the last 10 years.

Food as fuel, not as comfort.

Use food to support yourself nutritionally when you’re stressed. 

• Make sure you have a solid, healthy breakfast. 

• Have healthy snacks on hand to keep your blood sugar steady, so you don’t get “hangry” (a sure recipe for a meltdown). 

• Choose foods that support your brain’s chemistry (healthy proteins and fats, fruits and vegetables) instead of reaching for foods that can put you on an emotional roller coaster (sugary foods and drinks, refined “white” grains, processed foods, etc.).

• If you’re a stress eater, figure out other ways to feel better.

Making a soothing cup of tea, taking a hot bath, or curling up with a good book are deeply comforting activities that leave me relaxed and regret-free. 

Change what you can; let go of what you can’t.

Learn to play a strong mental game. If something is stressing you out, first figure out what you can do about it. Make a simple plan and then implement it, one step at a time.

If there’s something troubling you that you can’t do anything about, practice letting it go. Worries will probably come back, trying to hijack your mind. Be determined not to let that happen. Resist worrying about anything you can’t change. Let it go. With time, this becomes easier.

Remember this, dear reader. Your brain is a captive audience; it only listens to YOU, and whatever others say about you do NOT become a part of you until you agree with them!

You might come up with a customized “stress toolkit” for yourself. Have a look through this list of suggestions, and pick the things that appeal to you most, or those that would be easiest for you to implement.

Think again of the unhelpful stress-relievers you commonly turn to and decide how you might exchange them for a healthier habit (for example, making a cup of your favorite herbal tea after a tough day, instead of pouring yourself a glass of wine).

Life goes so much better when your coping strategies make things better, instead of making things worse.

 

Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available online at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com.  For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.