Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Stress. It’s a feeling many of us deal with and even though it’s common, it’s not “normal”. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress can be challenging if you already have a full plate, but if you commit to the process of less stress, you can find more peace and make a positive impact on your overall health.
As part of my healing journey, stress has been at the top of the list. When we experience stress it has an impact on our entire body, not just our mind or our mood.
Chronic stress causes the consistent release of cortisol. Cortisol is called the “stress hormone” and it is produced in our adrenal glands. This hormone raises blood sugar levels to give you the energy to fight or flight.
Raised cortisol levels can cause
- Depressed Immune System
- Fluid Retention
- Disruption of sex hormones and menstrual cycles
- Increased risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Weight gain and obesity
- Heart disease
You see, stress is about so much more than what you can physically feel. It makes an impact on the body on the inside, too, which is why finding healthy ways to cope with stress should be high on your priority list.
What are 10 ways to cope with stress?
When you decide to focus on stress management the most important thing to remember is it will take time. This is not an overnight “fix”. And even as you are actively working on it, you’ll have days that life gets the best of you.
Give yourself grace, accept it, reassess and commit to learning from the situation and how you could have set yourself up for success better and implement that strategy next time.
1. Prioritize sleep
Sleep is queen. While we sleep, our body is healing, and when you don’t give it adequate time to recharge and heal, you start your day “behind the 8 ball”. If you find yourself up later and later and feeling groggy and a lack of energy, find a way to get into bed 30 minutes earlier, or find a way to take a nap during the day.
It doesn’t need to be a 3 hour nap, even 20 minutes can allow yourself time to recharge. If you need tips on getting better sleep I shared some suggestions in this post.
2. Make time for movement
Hear me out. I know what you are thinking… “I’m already stressed and now you are telling me to add in exercise???” I’m not telling you to go get a gym membership and spend an hour a day there. I’m talking a few moments each day. And for the love, make it something that you don’t hate doing! Movement should not be a punishment, it should be something you can enjoy and leaves you feeling better afterwards!
Here are some simple ways to add more movement into your day.
- Take a walk around the block or even just around the inside of your house!
- Do a few yoga poses when you wake up.
- Stretch before bed.
- Park farther so it takes you a few extra minutes to walk into a building or store.
- Turn on music in your kitchen and dance while cooking a meal.
- Clean a room in your house
- Play hide and seek with your kids.
- Have sex with your spouse (Yep. I said it. This is good for movement, stress relief and your relationship)
3. Use essential oils
Essential oils can have a profound impact on the body. There are several different essential oils that can be used to help you unwind and reduce feelings of stress.
I use Young Living Essential Oils. I’ve tried other brands and have always come back to them and feel like they work the best for me You can use essential oils in a roller ball mixed with a carrier oil, or diffuse them in a room. I almost always have a diffuser going in our home, especially as I am working, too.
My favorite Young Living Essential Oils for stress are:
- Stress Away
- Peace & Calming
Guided meditation is something I have found to be incredibly helpful for my own stress. I shared more about guided meditation in this post.
Meditation is something you can do at home, in your car, outside, really wherever you can close your eyes and find some peace for just a few minutes.
Meditation allows you to calm not only your mind, but also your breath. That’s why I like a guided meditation, they remind me to take deep breaths and give me something to focus on. By incorporating meditation in my day I am able to be more calm and I’m much less reactive to situations that are out of my control.
I use the Peloton app for guided meditations.
5. Connect with loved ones
We were created for connection. Having a community who is there to support and encourage you can make all the difference.
If you don’t have time to grab dinner with a friend, or go visit a family member, pick up the phone and call them. Send a text. Schedule a time to FaceTime someone who lives far away. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, even just a few minutes with our loved ones can make us feel uplifted and we are reminded how important we are to others.
6. Eat a well balanced diet
When you eat a balanced diet with protein, fats and carbohydrates that adequately fuel your body, you feel better. If you eat foods that make you feel unwell, avoid them or limit their intake. Be willing to pay attention to what your body says to you when you eat certain foods.
Physical stress on our bodies can play a role on our mental stress, so by paying attention to how your body feels when you eat certain foods you can fuel your body and mind for a positive outlook.
If you drink caffeine all day and never have water, try replacing one caffeinated beverage for water and see how your body responds. Does it feel less jittery? Do you feel less dehydrated? Do you have less cravings? You don’t have to make huge changes to your diet to see the impact, just small subtle shifts can make a big difference.
7. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is tough but if I have learned one thing this past year it’s that boundaries are incredibly helpful and absolutely necessary.
Boundaries are essential for you to protect not only your time, but also your energy.
Are you constantly pouring out to others and leaving your own needs on the back burner?
Do you look back on your day and wonder what in the world you did for YOU today?
Do you feel unenergized about your life because you never give yourself time to dream?
Do you make excuses because setting boundaries is something that makes you uncomfortable?
Does saying no to someone make you want to break out in hives?
If you answered yes to any of those, girl, it’s time to set some boundaries.
I worked with Lyndsey Chambers this year in her program, Beyond the Body, and let me tell you, it’s made a huge impact on my life. I have a lot of things I’m working on, boundaries being one of them, but I finally feel equipped with what I need to do it, and set the boundaries unapologetically. And it feels good. Real real good.
Boundaries are an important way for you to honor your happiness and joy. I don’t know when we started buying into the idea that we have to make everyone else happy first, and we come last, and that’s the standard for what makes you a good person. But, I’m calling BS on that. YOU ARE IMPORTANT. YOUR NEEDS MATTER. Put yourself at the top of your priority list and I promise you, you will find peace (it’ll take some time so be patient).
8. Take a time-out
Sometimes the only way to get a handle on our stress is to literally take a time-out. Raise the white flag and call someone in for back up.
As a Mom of 3, I feel this, and I’ve never quite felt it like I have this year. A few months ago, we called in for backup and called my parents and asked them to take the kids overnight. My husband and I needed space to breathe, and we needed it badly. It’s amazing what a day of sitting on the couch and watching Netflix can do for you, or staying in bed later or allowing yourself time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea.
Another tip that Lyndsey taught me in Beyond the Body is to look at your calendar and purposefully schedule one weekend a month (or one day if a weekend isn’t manageable) and don’t schedule anything. If you are like me, you feel stressed just by me mentioning this… but I did it and wow. Slowing down and spending time at home is so needed, not just for my husband and I, but our kids as well.
Are you going to disappoint people when you say you can’t come visit that weekend or you can’t help someone out? Sure. But remember, you are working on healthy ways to cope with stress and the healthiest way to do it is to know what you need and being willing to set the boundaries to achieve it.
We all need white space in our planners. Why are we filling up all of our time? What are we running away from? What award do we think we are going to earn by being the busiest???
9. Read a book
If reading is something you enjoy, are you making time to do it? I’m including this on this list because I think as we get older we make less and less time to do things we enjoyed as kids. I loved reading growing up and still do today.
Reading can also allow you to escape reality for a bit and go head first into someone else’s story. So read something you’ll enjoy! I go to the library for most of my books, but I also listen to them on Libro.fm.
Reading books is also a great way to connect with loved ones! Start a book club or just text a friend who enjoys reading and ask for recommendations for books. Then stay connected with them about what each of you are reading. Books are a great way to connect with people and help you take time for yourself to relax.
Haven’t read in a while and have no idea what to read? Here are some of my all time faves.
10. Get outside
Spending time in nature can be so good us. There have even been studies done that have shown the benefits of nature because this is how our ancestors lived so we have an innate drive within us to connect with nature. It also has been studied that spending time in nature triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels along with restoring our ability to concentrate and focus.
When my kids are having a rough day for instance, getting them outside can do a 180 on their moods. That’s always been one of my tricks as a Mom, if everyone is going crazy, let’s get outside!
You don’t need to even “do” anything outside. Just spend some time letting the sun hit your face, or walk around your yard barefoot (this is called grounding) and connect with the earth. You may notice your heart rate slows down and you are able to take some deep, cleansing breaths as well.
What if I still need help?
Sometimes the stress we have in our lives is not able to be fixed with simple changes. Sometimes you need to talk to someone. If you feel like the stress you are experiencing is unmanageable and you need help, please reach out to someone to help you navigate your feelings. You don’t need to suffer, and there are people who want to help.