Dealing With Stress Through Life Changes
When stress happens, it can cause you to feel “stuck.” Stress can feel like quicksand, sucking you in and holding you there, making you focus on all of the bad and ignore any potential good.
If your stress level has gotten high and seems to be staying there despite your efforts to cope, it may be time to make some healthy and helpful life changes.
Here at PYM, we’re dedicated to helping people find better ways of coping with their anxiety and stress.
Here are just some of the ways that you can deal with your stress by making some positive life changes.
Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
When discussing lifestyle changes that can positively impact your mental health and reduce your stress level, nutrition often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. We believe that nutrition is actually one of the best ways that you can help reduce your stress level.
Many of us don’t have the best diet. This is partly due to the way that the American food system has been set up, with sugary, processed foods that lack quality nutrition being the easiest, quickest, and the cheapest to obtain. While that isn’t fair and we hope that it changes someday soon, putting a little extra time and money into creating a more well-balanced diet can really help improve the way you feel, both physically and mentally.
A great place to start is by keeping a food diary for a week or so. All you need to do is just jot down what you’ve eaten, when you’ve eaten it, and how you felt when both before and after you ate. At the end of the week, take a look at it as a whole. Are there obvious patterns that you can see, like binging on chips or ice cream after you get home from work? Do certain foods or drinks increase restlessness or feelings of being down and lethargic?
Once you’re more aware of what you’re eating and why you may be eating it, you can work to make positive changes.
For instance, when you focus on eating less fried foods and more foods that are full of the healthy vitamins and minerals that everybody needs to run at our most efficient, you’ll notice you feel better both inside and out.
On this premise, we designed our PYM Mood Chews to help people increase their intake of GABA, L-Theanine, and Rhodiola, all nutrients which have shown themselves to be helpful at naturally being able to support feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and stress. There are of course whole foods that can do this as well, like turmeric, dark chocolate, chamomile tea, and even salmon. Plus, the act of cooking a meal after a stressful day can be very therapeutic.
When In Doubt, Work It Out
In addition to monitoring your diet and making adjustments as needed, making sure that you’re getting enough exercise is another lifestyle change that we can’t say enough good things about.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults get at least two and a half hours (or 150 minutes) of “moderate” aerobic activity in a week. This can be broken up in whatever way works for you, like doing a long workout on the weekend and shorter workouts during the weekdays. If you like more vigorous exercise, an hour and fifteen minutes (or 75 minutes) is recommended for that same time period.
However, if you’re new to exercise or you feel intimidated, start small. Even small amounts of exercise offer benefits for both your body and your mind. You can go for a walk with your dog even just around the block, start an easy running program, or just find a workout or dance video on the internet and try it out.
Anything that gets your body moving helps you to trigger those positive lifestyle changes, so don’t feel like you have to go out and immediately (or ever!) run a marathon or participate in a triathlon. Start where you are, and work on adding to that over time based on physical activity you actually enjoy.
Exercise works great as a stress management tool for two reasons.
First, it often gets you out of the house and into the world. When our anxiety is at its highest, it becomes common nature to want to retreat and isolate yourself. Even if you’re not participating in a social exercise activity, the change of scenery, exposure to nature, and possibility for human interaction is only ever a good thing.
Second, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can help reduce your stress on a chemical level. Chemicals like serotonin and dopamine work to affect the nervous system, and help fight off the negative effects that cortisol (the stress hormone) can have on your body. While more vigorous exercise releases these chemicals in larger quantities, even small amounts can help. Plus, your dog will thank you for the extra bonding time.
Pay Attention To Your Sleep Schedule
The amount of sleep you get is just as important to how you feel, both mentally and physically, as exercise and nutrition. We often push sleep to the back burner, choosing to stay awake longer to “get things done” in an attempt to hopefully reduce our stress level by staying ahead of the game. Unfortunately, this is a false narrative that so many of us have fallen prey to.
In fact, sleep deprivation is one of the leading factors that contribute to poor mental health. When surveying the typical mental health patient, studies found that between 50 and 80% of them struggled with chronic sleep-related problems. Compare that to people who haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health condition, and those percentages drop to between 10 and 18%. For many of those patients, treating the sleep disorder also helped to reduce their mental health struggles. Which comes first is still up for debate, but the link is clear.
It is generally recommended that an adult gets between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night. While you can function on less sleep temporarily, the effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative and can impact far more areas than just mental health. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to be involved in accidents, develop heart disease, and suffer from obesity.
But getting that much sleep, especially if you’re used to just dealing with less, can be challenging. It often requires completely revamping your evening schedule, and having to make some sacrifices. Developing a sleep routine can be helpful, as can making sure that you turn off all technology at least 30 minutes prior to turning in for the night to give your brain a chance to start to wind down.
Practice Meditation and Mindfulness
One last lifestyle change that you can make to help reduce your day to day stress level is to take up the practice of meditation and mindfulness. While these two terms are often used interchangeably and are related, they are slightly different. Meditation is a practice, and mindfulness is the quality that you develop from applying that practice.
Meditation doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before. You don’t need any special equipment or knowledge set, just a quiet place where you can be alone for at least a few minutes at a time. You’ll just sit, focus on your breathing, and work on learning to leave your negative thoughts be and let them pass by without giving them power or attention.
Through the practice of meditation, you’ll be able to create a deeper sense of mindfulness.
What this means is that, in your day to day life outside of when you’re seated in meditation, you can learn to be able to live in the moment and not get continually hung up on thoughts (especially negative thoughts). When you experience negative thinking, you’ll be able to have the space and ability to remember that it is a temporary feeling, that your brain may not be speaking truth, and you can move past it and refocus on what is actually happening in the here and now.
It’s one of the most powerful tools that you can have in your anxiety toolbox.
Start with five minutes of meditation two to three times a week. Don’t judge yourself too harshly, especially in the beginning, as it can be hard work to break out of the negative thought patterns that you may have grown accustomed to.
Every choice that you make in life, from what you choose to eat to how much sleep you get and whether or not you make exercise a priority, has an impact on how you feel both physically and emotionally.
When you’re going through a period of increased stress, focusing on the things that you can change can not only give you a place to direct your energy but can also positively affect your emotional and mental wellness. PYM is here to help, which is why we designed our mood chews to fit right into a healthier lifestyle. You deserve a life as free from stress as possible. We hope you now have the right tools to get yourself there.