Deadlines, bad bosses, relationship problems, traffic, economic and health issues…these are just a few of the many, many issues that can cause stress in our lives and sabotage our weight-loss efforts. Though stress is unavoidable (darn), how we cope and deal with stressors is within our control. And taking back the reigns is easy, if you know how.
Believe it or not, minor stress is actually essential in motivating our brains towards our goals – we are able to get places on time, meet deadlines, react quickly on the road – how we handle each situation trains our brains and our bodies for how we will handle future stress. It is a very important part of how the human brain works. So when it comes to handling stress, the trick is to let the good stress motivate us and let the bad stress go. Easier said than done, but you’re about to learn how.
Have you noticed the little thrill you get when you have a challenge that you know you can master? Mastering your larger stressors and overcoming big challenges can be equally as thrilling, plus, learning how to handle stress also helps avoid a whole host of taxes on the body that can occur when stress goes unchecked for long periods of time. (See the green chart at the right - yikes!)
The first step is to consider the things that really affect your stress levels, both positively and negatively. Let’s just call this baggage. Make sure that your mental “baggage” is not weighing you down and interfering with your success. Begin by identifying what you do and don’t want to include in your life.
Take a piece of paper and fold it into four quadrants. In the top left quadrant, write “What I Don’t Want” and your answers to the following questions:
While doing this exercise you may realize that there is more affecting you than you consciously realized before. On the other hand, there may be just one answer to all the above questions.
For instance, this is a story from my client Pam-
Whether it’s just one situation that is creating your stress or a lot of small things, it is important to identify your stressors and, if you cannot eliminate them, develop coping mechanisms so that you can avoid the physical consequences of these long term stressors.
Next, it’s time to think about what gives you energy, what drives you and what makes you feel good. While baggage weighs you down, what you do want in your life lifts you up! The things you think of in this next exercise will eventually work as the antidote to your stress.
In the top right quadrant of your paper, write “What I Do Want” and your answers to the following questions:
If you are answering with the same thing for each of these questions, you have easily identified what you should spend the majority of your time and energy on. If you have a different answer for each question, you have many great ideas for what you can lean on when stressors creep in on you.
Many of us spend so much time in a stressed state that we have forgotten what it feels like to be fully relaxed and alert. It is important to tap into the stress relief techniques that suit you best.
In the bottom left quadrant of your paper write two or three stress relief techniques that you will employ. This will be an essential part of your “mental first aid kit.”
Here are some suggestions:
Studies show that spoken affirmations lower blood pressure and slow heart rate and breathing. The basic practice is to focus on a word or phrase along with your breathing and to bring your attention back to your task if your mind wanders toward negative thoughts.
In the bottom right quadrant of your paper, write quotes, words, songs and sayings that elicit calm feeling in you. When you are experiencing a stress response, take a deep breath and verbalize the word, quote or saying. Repeat it until you feel calmer.
Here are some examples of words or phrases you can use:
When stress seems to be bearing down on you from all angles, doing this simple 4-part exercise should help you refocus and remind you that you have many tools to get you through even the toughest times. Quadrants 2-4 of your worksheet will remind to you that there is so much in your life to look forward to.
Check out these resources on identifying and dealing with stress: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/relaxation-techniques-for-stress-relief.htm
Author: Brandi Redo
Brandi is a Certified Health Coach at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. Balance is the number one mission in Brandi’s life. In her spare time she loves to bike, do Zumba and play tennis, but hates gym exercise. She is an amateur gardener and nature walker, who is on the constant look out for interesting insects and small animals. Brandi encourages people to “find the sweetness in life.”