By J. Ron Eaker, M.D.
Number 3 on our hit parade of tips for highly healthy moms is, “Chillax!” Take it easy. Breathe…slowly.
You know what you call a person who doesn’t experience stress?…Dead! We all have it and it isn’t going away. Life is stressful and no matter how many platitudes you hear from Chicken Soup For The Soul (a diamond is just coal under stress, etc) accepting that stuff happens is the first step. The one “Confucius says” that makes sense here is that how you react to stress determines whether you crawl in a cave or keep putting one foot in front of another.
Here are 8 life hacks that can help you manage stress. They are not cures, that jerk of a boss is still going to make you want to shoot blood out of your eyes but they can help you not commit homicide.
1. Exercise. Yeah, I know, you are sick of hearing about the wonderful world of sweating and spandex but you hear about it ad nauseam because it’s true. Every study on the planet has shown a positive impact of exercise on moods and anxiety. I know myself that if I have to deal with idiot insurance clerks and non functioning electronic medical records all day, a quick run in the evening will soothe my savage soul.
2. Dump the Java. Caffeine is a stimulant and the last thing most of us need is more stimulation. I realize that some of you would be blubbering masses of couch bound protoplasm without your morning coffee, as would I, but slamming down a pot before lunch is not conducive to chilling out. Think of caffeine as a volume control on the stress stereo…A cup of coffee in the morning will get the dial to a 1 but a Red Bull and a Full Throttle after lunch turns the dial to a 10 and you don’t need that.
3. Does anyone really smoke in this day and time? I mean, just give me a daily dose of strychnine while you are at it. Even though overall smoking rates are down, there are still a lot of fools that think slow suicide is cool. Guess what, instead of calming you down (as in a smoke break) the nicotine and myriads of other poisons actually increase anxiety, so give up the smokes and spend the extra money on something positive like the lottery.
4. Now I’m really going to make you mad. Not only am I suggesting getting rid of the caffeine and cigarettes but now I’m adding booze to the trifecta. I just don’t want you to ever have fun again. I have to say that realistically all these things need to follow the “only in moderation” rule (except smoking, that’s still idiotic anytime). An occasional glass of red wine has been shown to have some health benefits but that doesn’t mean a bottle a night is even better. Self medicating with alcohol is a classic reaction to stress but it inevitably ends up creating vastly more problems than it masks.
5. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation creates anxiety, which creates sleep problems, which adds to anxiety…you can see where this is going. A good seven to eight hours a night can do wonders for stress management and moodiness. Why do you think we say, “I will sleep on it?” Well, for me it’s mainly to have an excuse to not give an answer but for normal people it goes back to knowing good sleep helps your brain function better.
6. Quiet down. This can take the form of prayer, meditation or just throwing a ball against the wall and catching it. Simply quieting the mind and being conscious of your breathing for as little as five minutes a day can have a beneficial impact on stress. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position and contemplate your navel (it’s more fun to contemplate someone else’s navel) but any technique to be mindful of the moment is helpful.
7. lock all your electronic devices in your gun cabinet at night. Exposure to screens, be it your phone, iPad or 500 inch plasma megatron television, has been shown to be stress magnifying. Some of it has to do with their interference with sleep but it may also be the lousy content of most TV shows and Facebook feeds. How many times do you really need to see pictures of your ex-husband’s trip to Burma “to find himself?” (Eat, Pray, Burp).
8. GET HELP. Finally, if you find yourself doing all these things and still battling the demons, get help. The biggest mistake folks make is thinking stuff will just get better on its own. Chances are it won’t and a caring, knowledgeable counselor, pastor, doctor, friend or Nepalese guru can help guide you along the path to health.
This article appears in the May 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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