Did you know that stress can have a significant negative impact on your health and wellbeing? It can even prevent you from losing weight! It’s time to learn about the importance of mindset and stress reduction!
Stress and anxiety bringing you down? Me too!
So I’ll be the first one to admit that this is one of the things I struggle most with in my life. Anxiety has been one area of my life where I’ve never felt fully in control, and have always felt like there are just so many pressures that it is hard to allow myself to relax.
Sometimes, you just need to take some time to “do nothing” to help calm my mind and body. In theory, it sounds absolutely wonderful. Take time and just chill, lay out on a beach, read a book or go for a swim.
In reality, even when I’m trying my best to relax, I still feel guilt about what I *should* be doing instead. The voices in my mind are unrelenting, and they like to creep back up and say things like “you should be doing something productive instead” or “you don’t have time for this”.
But really, all we have is the present moment. To never take time to enjoy it, means a life lived for the future or the past, rather than for now.
There is tons and tons of research touting the importance of relaxation on our minds and bodies, but you don’t even need science to help prove the facts. Simply take a minute to close your eyes and to take a few deep breaths. Exhale the stress, inhale the fresh, clean air.
But if you are someone who still says “show me the science!”, here are a few facts to back up me up:
- Stress left unchecked can lead to not only depression and anxiety, but also physical disease (dis-ease) in the body.
- Stress activates the fight-or-flight response, which essentially tells your body that you could be eaten by a tiger at any moment.
- Stress lowers your immune system, making it harder to fight off colds and infections.
- Chronic stress taxes your adrenal glands (think adrenaline), which can disrupt your cortisol levels, which impacts sleep, blood sugar and energy levels. This can cause your body to hold onto extra weight.
Where do I begin?
If you aren’t sure where to begin, here is a quick list of some different forms of stress reduction:
- Listening to or playing music
- Getting out into nature
- Going for a walk
- Reading a book
- Dietary changes/eliminating caffeine
- Taking a bath
- Spending time with loved ones (including your pets)
- Decluttering your surroundings
- Drawing, painting, or an adult coloring book
- Eliminating the things in your life that don’t serve you
- Schedule in extra time to achieve tasks so you are not rushed
- Stress-reducing supplements
If you aren’t into the idea of meditation where you sit cross-legged with your hands in a certain mudra, no need to worry. Stress reduction takes so many different forms. Whatever gets you out of your mind can really classify as stress reduction.
Is there one thing in your life where stress melts away, and you completely lose track of time? There you go, that is your form of stress reduction.
Mindset is important too
As for mindset, this works hand in hand with stress reduction. If you are really good about taking 5-10 minutes to relax your body, but the rest of your day, your mind is full of negative actions and thinking, then that 5-10 minutes a day is not going to be overly helpful.
I struggle all the time with not identifying as a “sick” person, because getting into that mindset of negativity really puts me into a downward spiral. I’m sad about being sick, which makes me progressively more sad and more sick.
Now replace “sick” with whatever ails you. Lack of money, a bad family situation, peers that always put you down. Maybe you can’t change the situation, but you can certainly do your best to reframe the situation in a new light.
This takes time and practice, but if you can catch yourself when you’re in that negative place, and replace the thought with one that is positive, then your whole perspective can begin to shift. For me, this means replacing “sick” and “stressed”, with “healing” and “relaxed.”
These thoughts may not feel completely truthful at first, especially for someone who has spent 30 years talking negatively about themselves, but the more you try it, the more you believe it to be true.
Plus, even if it doesn’t feel the most true, there is something so magical about becoming aware of, and interrupting that negative spiral. That in itself is half of the battle. The kind words to yourself are more the icing on the cake.
If you are someone who tends to start a routine, and then 5 days later, you fall out of it, well I have some ideas for you. This is totally me as well, so I came up with some tips for how to assist in forming new, positive habits:
- Place positive sticky notes with words of affirmation around the house, like on your bathroom mirror, so you see have no choice but to read them every morning. Some of my favorites are “I am healthy”, “I am full of energy” and “I am strong.”
- Set a daily reminder on your phone with your favorite quote or positive saying. I like this one “I choose to see the positive in everything and everyone.”
- When you are stuck in traffic in your morning commute, listen to an audiobook or a podcast to keep you upbeat, rather than to focus on the stress and frustration around you. One of my favorites is the audiobook “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero. It’s comedy meets self love, and Jen is a well-spoken and engaging narrator.
- Take time each evening to write down, or think of three things you were grateful for that day. Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving.
- If you like to schedule everything, plan a small chunk of time each morning or evening for whatever technique resonates with you the most.
What books and resources do you recommend on this subject?
For most of the other techniques I listed above, you don’t even need any resources. Luckily stress reduction and mindset changes are free to make!
If you want to take things to the next level, or struggle with starting, here are some resources to try:
As I mentioned above, I love the book “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero, and have relistened to the audiobook several times.
“Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky. A comedic and scientific look at stress.
“Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Fiding Peace in a Frantic World” by Dr. Danny Penman, a deeper dive into breaking the cycle of negativity.
If you’d like to give adult coloring a try (super stress-relieving!), this Secret Garden coloring book is fun and beautiful.
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