Nobody likes feeling stressed.
Okay, well most of us don’t. And even though stress isn’t an unfamiliar feeling, some of it is actually necessary for our functioning.
For example, stress occurs to warn us of danger or to influence important choices we make. It’s when stress starts to take over our lives that it becomes unhealthy — but fortunately there are ways to manage this.
Now, I’m not saying managing stress is always easy, but it can be simple… as in S.I.M.P.L.E. — 6 steps to follow for taking greater control over stress. It’s important to keep an open mind; sometimes it’s the power of simplicity that’s underestimated.
So, here’s how to keep stress management S.I.M.P.L.E.:
Take just a few moments each day to practice being quiet.
As a mental health professional, I’m fully aware it can sometimes be scary to think about being alone with your thoughts. However, it’s often those of us who experience such resistance that could benefit the most.
One easy way to practice silence is to take a little time before bed and after waking up to just remain quiet. Whether you choose to sit still, or to go about your evening in movement, doing so in silence offers an opportunity for greater self reflection.
When quiet, it’s easier to pay attention to your body (does it feel tense, warm, cool?) and to your breath (is its pace fast or slow?).
Observing these things, as well as any tendency to rush or to get lost in your thoughts identifies behaviors that impact our mood. Bringing awareness to these behaviors allows you to approach the situation or moment with a slightly different perspective, and therefore, impose greater control.
2. Identify affirmations
As simple or cheesy as it may seem, identifying your strengths, positive traits and/or characteristics is an excellent way to combat negative thinking.
You’ve likely found yourself here before; you know when one negative thought leads to the next, and the next, and you find yourself feeling as if nothing will turn out right. This is the perfect time to think (or even say aloud) an affirmation.
For example, “I am strong, I am capable, I can get through this, I am success, etc.”. The more you start to think in terms of your success, the more you can start to reshape how you view the outcome of a particular situation.
Think in terms of what is possible rather than what’s not.
Move in any way you can.
It’s no secret that exercise is good for your overall health, but there is sometimes a misconception about what exercise “should be.” You don’t have to spend 45 minutes on a treadmill to have successfully completed a workout!
Find a way to move your body that feels good for you. Go for a walk, do some light stretching, ride a bike, swim, or dance. Doing something you like will yield the most benefit, as you’re more likely to be consistent with that activity in the long run. Making the the time to move on a regular basis can help to reduce excess energy, anxiety, and stress.
4. Pause and check in
We live in a fast paced world where time is precious.
No matter how busy your day is or how good or bad you feel, you can always stop and pause, even if for just a minute or two. Notice how you feel when you stop moving. What thoughts or feelings come to mind?
When running on autopilot, it’s easy to forget what it feels like when the sun touches your skin, or how the birds sound when they sing, or how you’re really feeling that day. Taking time to stop and pause does not detract from how much you can accomplish. It magnifies the potential for greater fulfillment.
5. Leverage “treats”
“Everything in moderation” — you’ve heard this, right?
There’s nothing wrong with indulging sometimes, but you’ve gotta know where to draw the line. I know, easier said than done. You know that eating a whole pizza or a dozen doughnuts probably isn’t a good idea, but what about consuming caffeine or alcohol? Sometimes these can be a trigger for anxiety themselves.
Also, treats don’t have to come in the form of food. Indulging can also be staying up too late to finish your favorite Netflix show (guilty!), depriving you of sleep.
Whatever it is you do for enjoyment or to treat yourself, try to set realistic boundaries.
6. Eat a balanced diet
You already know how important it is to eat a balanced diet, but does this even mean?
Honestly, a balanced diet looks different for everyone. In general, eating a diet that balances carbs (bread, pasta), proteins (chicken, meats) and fats (cheese, nuts) is the most optimal. Also, most of the calories you consume should come from minimally processed foods (lean meats, fresh fruit/veggies, etc.).
Your nutritional needs are just that — yours — they are unique to you and your lifestyle. Those who are more active generally require more carbs, for example. By paying attention to how you feel after eating certain meals or foods, you can modify your diet to accommodate your needs. And of course, you can always talk to your doctor or a health professional.
With these 6 S.I.M.P.L.E. steps, you have the capability to better manage stress.
These are tools that can alter your perspective, mindset, and ultimately your behavior. Be silent, identify affirmations, move, pause, leverage, and find balance.
Remember, the goal is not to be perfect, but just to do your best.
Over to my Bad Yogis: what are some ways you simply destress? Sound off in the comment section below!