Both mental and physical changes can help you manage stress and make life more pleasant for you and those around you.
Today is Part 3 of our series on How to Manage Stress Before it Controls You, and we are going to take both a physical and mental approach to staying on the path to health even during difficult times. Add these tools to your list of getting moving, sleeping peacefully, listening to the right voices, and staying a part of community so you can keep your health, your sanity, and your relationships during times of high stress.
Eat Well & As Fresh As You Can
The onset of stress can begin the depletion of nutrients in the body, and when that is followed by eating large amounts of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods (like the fatty, sugary ones we often turn to when stress eating), things that your body needs are not restored.
That lack of good nutrition and increase of calories creates a physical strain on your body which adds to that which is caused by emotional stress.
As stress effects reach their peak, the immune system is compromised.
But guess what? This strain on your body and subsequent health can be avoided! Make sure that every meal includes some type of vegetable or fruit and a protein source. Avoid overeating by portioning meals and snacks instead of eating things straight out of the bag (even healthy snacks like nuts can become too calorie-rich if you overeat the serving sizes). Plan your meal times and stick to them – boredom and hunger are two different things! If you are feeling hungry when you know you have eaten recently, try doing something active instead.
Our bodies’ systems are impacted by stress, but food rich in vitamins and nutrients helps reduce physical stress symptoms, boost the immune system, and give you the energy to actively engage in your life each day.
“Interrupt anxiety with gratitude.” Here is one time when interrupting isn’t rude! I once heard stress and anxiety over unknown circumstances referred to as “dress rehearsing tragedy.” This means deciding ahead of time that the worst will happen and allowing your imagination to take you to dark and difficult places.
When you find yourself tempted to or already travelling down those stress-ridden mental rabbit trails, hit the pause by practicing gratitude.
You can take the time to name or write a few things you are thankful for: your health, family, home, community, stocked pantry, etc. You can think of one person specifically and encourage them through a “thank you” text, note, or email. Go outside and sketch all of the parts of nature that you’re grateful for (bonus points for creativity). Consider the situation that is causing you stress, then find and name the surprising bright spots. They are always there, if you look for them.
Practicing gratitude can be profoundly impactful on your mental and emotional health, which both play a large part in your ability to make healthy choices for your body.
Acknowledging bright spots in hard places also helps you to shift your mindset and be the kind of person that you want to be around. Trust me, your loved ones will thank you.
Stress, fear, and anxiety are all typical parts of the human response to living in a world where things are often beyond our control. Creating a path to wellness and living a healthy life in which you can thrive means choosing activities and attitudes that help you manage that stress with wisdom and grace.
If you missed Parts 1 & 2 of this series, be sure to find them below and read through the rest of these great tools for helping you manage your health during stressful times!