10 Tips For De-Stressing Your Life

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ImageStress is like dark chocolate. A little of it won’t kill you. In fact, small blocks here and there can be good for you, or at least give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But chronic and severe stress will damage your body and mind, blocking the fluid communication to and from most organs–especially in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and in the limbic system, the brain’s emotional center. Believe me, you want these two systems running as smoothly as possible, with low levels of the delinquent stress hormones in your bloodstream.

The best way to combat chronic stress is to always keep some stress busters handy. Here are 10 of my favorites.

1. Simplify

Cut your to-do list in half. How? Ask yourself this question after every item: Will I die tomorrow if this doesn’t get accomplished? Believe me, even you A-type personalities will get a lot of no’s. I’m sure Franklin Covey has a more efficient and elaborate system. But here’s mine: Every morning I immediately jot down my to-do list. Once I experience the first heart palpitation, the list gets cut in half.

2. Prioritize

Let’s say you’ve got five huge work projects due next week, two Cub Scout commitments you promised your son, your mom’s overdue taxes on your desk, your wife’s 50th birthday celebration to plan, and your daughter’s computer to fix. What do you do? You record all the tasks on a sheet of paper or on your computer and you give each one a number between 1 and 10: 10 being the most important (life threatening) to one (stupid thing I signed up for). Start with the 10s. If you never get beyond the 8s, that’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up about it. It can go on tomorrow’s list.

3. Use Pencil, Not Pen

If you rely on your to-do list as much as I do, then you’ll want to start using pencil instead of pen because one important stress buster is to try to stay as flexible as possible. Things change! And change is not the enemy, even though our brain categorizes it as such. You want to be able to erase a task or reminder at any time, because who the heck knows what your day will be like.

4. Give Away Your Cape

If you haven’t already guessed by now, you are not a superhero and don’t possess supernatural qualities and capabilities. And if you do, you should be advertizing the fact so we can call on you when we get stressed. Seriously, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to join the race … the human race. Which means surrendering to limitations and conditions–like the number of hours in a day (24) and the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B. In your car. Not in your Batmobile.

Embrace your humanity and your limitations.  You’ll be a lot happier with yourself.

5. Collaborate and Cooperate

There are lots of people out there with to-do lists that look very similar to yours. Why not let them do some of your tasks so that you all don’t have to do them? The moms around me have mastered this concept, as they have set up a babysitting co-op: one mom volunteers to watches a neighbor’s kid and by doing so earns babysitting points that she can redeem when a neighbor watches her kids. Think co-op. It’s an effective system.

6. Laugh

Just as chronic and severe stress can damage organic systems in our body, humor can heal. When people laugh, the autonomic nervous system mellows out and the heart is allowed to relax. Laughter can also boost the immune system, as it has been found to increase a person’s ability to fight viruses and foreign cells, and reduces the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. Plus it’s just fun to laugh. And having fun is its own stress buster. Not to mention, the opposite sex finds it laughter a very sexy trait.

7. Exercise

Exercise relieves stress in several ways. First, cardiovascular workouts stimulate brain chemicals that foster growth of nerve cells. Second, exercise increases the activity of serotonin and norepinephrine. Third, a raised heart rate releases endorphins and a hormone known as ANP, which reduces pain, induces euphoria, and helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety. You need not run a marathon or complete an Ironman triathlon to experience the runner’s high. A quick stroll in the morning or in the evening might be just enough to tell the stress hormones in your blood to scatter and to let those endorphins out to play.

8. Stop Juggling

I realize some multi-tasking is inevitable in our rushed culture, but do we really have to simultaneously cook dinner, talk to Mom, help with homework, and check e-mail? If you were an excellent waiter or waitress in your past or present, then skip this one. However, if you have trouble chewing gum and walking at the same time like I do, you might try your best to concentrate on one activity at a time. That way you know it will get done well the first time.

9. Build Boundaries

Speaking of activities, set some boundaries, ASAP–meaning designate a place and time for certain things so that your brain doesn’t have to wear so many hats at the same time. I thought this was impossible as a mom who works from home until I made myself abide by some rules: computer is off when I’m not working, and computer stays off in the evening and on weekends. My brain adjusted nicely and appreciated the notice of when and where each hat was required, and it actually started to relax a tad.

10. Think Globally

I don’t say this to induce a guilt trip. No, no, no. Guilt trips compound stress. What I mean here is a simple reminder that compared to other problems in our world today–abject poverty in Somalia or Cambodia–the things that we stress about are pretty minor. In other words, if we shift our perspective a little, we can see that there are far worse dilemmas than maybe your unfinished report or my poor royalty figures on a few books. Put another way: Don’t sweat the small stuff, doing so only makes the small stuff bigger than it truly is.

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About leisatwatkins

In May 2011, I hit an all time low in my life and an all time high in my weight. I was 199 pounds and the idea of hitting 200 scared me. I had tried every known diet, HCG, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins, the grapefruit diet. I'd even tried Phen-phen when I was younger and Dexatrim before that. While I'd lose a little weight, I would always gain it back and then more. I knew the yo-yo dieting was not healthy for my body and it was definitely wreaking havoc on my mental wellness. I didn't know what to do and I was looking into taking drastic surgical measures to lose weight. That's when a friend of mine told me his story about losing over 200 pounds without pills, surgery, or starving himself. Not only did he lose the weight, but he kept it off. What did I have to lose? I asked him to share the secret with me. Now, only six short months later, I weigh 140 lbs and am working on losing 5 more. That will put me back to my weight that I was in HS, college, and before I had children. And I've done it with my friend's help as my Health Coach, without starving or even exercising, although I love to walk everyday. I haven't felt hungry at all in this process. How many "diets" can say that? I feel fantastic! I've felt great since the first week on this program. Let me be very clear about this. This is NOT a diet. This is not something you do for a little while, lose the weight, then go back to your old eating habits. This program is a life changing plan to help you eat healthier, make food choices that are tailored to your body, and bring you to a state of optimal physical health. If like me, you are tired of diets that don't work, then let me show you a life style plan that does.

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