It pays off to find ways to be mindful and present instead of anxious and harried
January is a great time to make resolutions for the new year. The trick is sticking to them longer than a week or two! But with the pressures of school and/or work weighing on you, the resolution to make life less stressful should be on everyone’s list.
What’s the problem with stress?
In addition to making you feel anxious, unsettled, distracted, and exhausted, stress can take a toll on your physiology. According to the American Psychological Association, stress can impact many of your body’s systems, including:
- an aching neck, back, and shoulders and even chronic pain your in musculoskeletal system
- increase in the “fight or flight” response, which can cause increased heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle (in the short term), and lead to problems for your heart and blood vessels (over the long-term).
- extra blood sugar—problematic if you’re diabetic
- harder breathing—problematic if you’re asthmatic—or hyperventilating, which can lead to panic attacks
- GI problems, beyond just nervous “butterflies” in the stomach: diarrhea, constipation, or even ulcers
- issues with the reproductive system, for both men and women, in terms of fertility as well as sexual desire and performance.
Feel convinced? We’ve got some ideas for how to bring some calm and relaxation into your life. So choose a few of these strategies and try them, to see which work for you:
Do less of this
- Eat less sugar. Many of us are coming down from the sugar highs and lows after consuming a lot of sweets over the holidays. This is a good time to avoid refined sugars whenever you can. Have a piece of fruit instead of a cookie.
- Avoid caffeine and don’t smoke. Both of these are stimulants and can ratchet up your stress level, even if you think they’re helping you manage it. You might like your cup of coffee in the morning, but try to limit your consumption during the rest of the day, and especially at night when sleep should be your priority.
- Drink less alcohol. You might think of this as a depressant, but that’s only if you drink a lot of it. Even small amounts of liquor can be stimulating in ways that can add to your stress.
Do more of this
- Drink more water. This is a good thing to focus on when you’re avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Keep a full, refillable water bottle with you at all times.
- Get more exercise. The more active you are—even just taking the stairs or parking a little further away in the lot—the better your body can counteract the stress hormones in your system. A daily mix of cardio and strength training is even better, but don’t stress yourself out about a complicated new workout routine. Just move more.
- Get more sleep. We’re a sleep-deprived society, unfortunately. Going to bed earlier—even half an hour each night—can make a difference in combatting stress. If you find your mind races when you try to sleep, then do something relaxing in the hours that lead up to bedtime. Turn off your phone and listen to some soothing music. Take a bath or read a book. It might take a few days to adjust to your new nighttime routine, but you’ll have an easier time dropping off to sleep and staying asleep.
- Find time to laugh. In your precious free time, surround yourself with friends who tickle your funny bone. Listen to podcasts and watch TV shows of people whose sense of humor resonates with you. This can help you remember that there’s more to life than the things on your “to do” list.
Find some peace and stillness
Give yourself a chance to access your own inner reserves of calm. Try some relaxation techniques, like visualization or meditation. Even just deep, rhythmic breathing can make a difference when you find yourself in a stressful moment. Some people like to choose a mantra (a word or phrase they find meaningful or reassuring) to repeat to themselves, to quiet the mind and focus on something positive. Yoga is simply a form of moving meditation, but you don’t even have to get down on the floor—there are some poses you can do at your desk. (Although taking yourself to a yoga class once in a while is a good idea, too.)
Get connected to support
Reach out to your support network and make sure your closest friends and family know what’s going on with you. The socialization will help you become less alienated, and sometimes the process of verbalizing your issues can help you transform them. The right friends can give perspective on what’s upsetting you, so choose wisely in whom you confide. If you need even more support, reach out to a counselor or therapist for help.
Listen to your body
For goodness sake, if you get sick, stay at home! You need to let your body rest and recover, and trying to keep up the rat race of your usual activities only depletes you more. Rather than pushing yourself past your limits, commit to taking care of yourself, so in the long run you’ll be healthier and more productive.
Take a break from technology
Bedtime isn’t the only time you should put down your smartphone. Throughout your day, try to be present. Focus on breathing, making eye contact with those around you, listening to others, and taking in the positive elements in your environment. Maybe there are delicious smells coming from the break room. Maybe the pathway to your office features a beautiful tree. Lifting your attention to what’s going on around you can help free you from the grip of stress. This will also help to give your body a break, since your neck tends to suffer from all that craning over to look at your screen.
Finally, a wise way to combat stress is to focus attention on the abundance in your life. There is always some, if you look for it. If you have a sink of dishes to do, that means that you have food to eat. If there’s laundry piling up, that’s because you have clothes to keep you warm. Spend a few minutes each day taking stock of what you might be taking for granted. Sharing your gratitude with others can bring you closer at a time when you might need some connection. Tell people in your life what they mean to you.
Don’t resign yourself to another year of just muddling through your stress. Put some of these tips into practice over the next few weeks until they start to become habit. You deserve to feel you have a life you can enjoy—even when you’re working hard and juggling a lot!
This post is part of the weekly blog of Seacoast Career Schools. We care about the health and well being of all our students. If you’re interested in a professional training program, reach out to us today, either online or by calling 800-758-7679, to learn more. We welcome you to schedule a tour of one of our two campuses, in Manchester, NH, and Sanford, ME.