Remember the last time you had hours to relax, read a novel, go for a swim, get your nails done, or just lie on the couch and do nothing? When you didn’t have a care in the world, and everything in your life was going smoothly?
Nope? Me neither.
Let’s face it—in today’s world, a restful, stress-free day is just a fantasy. In reality, we’re all juggling a million responsibilities, from work to kids to relationships. Most of the time, we’re running from morning until night, and at bedtime we still have a mile-long to-do list.
And that’s not all. There are the job issues, the money problems, and the family dramas. And every day, there’s another crisis—whether it’s a fender-bender, an unexpected bill, or a broken washing machine.
In short, we’re stressed all the time. Unfortunately, that stress can translate into unhappiness, poor health, and even a bigger belly. Here’s just some of the damage that chronic stress can do:
- It can hurt your relationships. Stressed moms have less satisfying relationships with their partners and engage in fewer “quality time” activities.
- It can damage your brain. Chronic stress can cause damage to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, increasing your risk for developing depression or dementia.
- It can age you faster. Chronic stress leads to a shortening of your telomeres—the protective caps on the ends of your DNA that help keep it from “unraveling.” That’s one reason why chronic stress can up your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- It can make you fat. Stress causes you to crave sugar and fats, because your stress hormones are made from sugar and fats. So when stress grinds you down, you’re more tempted to reach for French fries, pizza, or ice cream. In addition, stress hikes your cortisol levels—and that can lead to a “cortisol tire,” even if you aren’t overweight.
- It can make you hurt. Stress, and the brain changes and cortisol elevation associated with it, can make you more vulnerable to pain.
Clearly, in order to stay happy, slim, and healthy, you need to find a way to deal with chronic stress. In an ideal world, you could snap your fingers and make it disappear—but in the real world, that’s not going to happen. So instead, you need to become an expert stress-buster. Here’s how to do it.
Five Steps for Busting Your Stress
Stress is a given—but how you respond to that stress can make or break you. Here are five ways to get your stress under control:
REDUCE IT. You can’t get rid of all stress, but you can get rid of unnecessary stress. If you haven’t read my post on STRATEGIZING YOUR YESSES, check it out here—and then start saying “no” to over-commitment.
PRIORITIZE IT. It’s easy to downplay the effects of stress in your life. But as I’ve just noted, stress can make you sad, sick, and fat… or even kill you. So EVERY SINGLE DAY, make it a point to schedule at least fifteen minutes for a stress-reducing activity. Write this on your calendar, put it on your to-do list, or add it to your day planner. I know that in the short term, it may stress you out even more to commit that much of your time to yet another “task”—but in the long run, it will make a world of difference.
NUKE IT. Every day, practice at least one of these stress-reducing strategies:
- Turn on your favorite music and dance.
- Do yoga or Tai Chi.
- Journal about your problems and possible solutions.
- Laugh—watch a funny show or read a funny book.
- Take an Epsom salt bath.
- Go for a nature walk.
- Indulge in your favorite hobby.
- Get a massage or a neck rub from your partner.
Be firm with your friends and family about the importance of this “you” time. DO NOT skimp on this time, and DO NOT feel guilty about enjoying it—because when you’re less stressed, everyone around you will be happier.
SHARE IT. Do you feel like you need to be a super-hero and shoulder all of your stressful burdens alone? Well, get over it! Often, blowing off steam with a friend can slash your stress instantly—so stop trying to be the rock all the time, and share your burdens with the people who care about you. If your stress is severe, consider seeing a therapist who can help and support you.
STRENGTHEN YOUR PHYSICAL DEFENSES AGAINST IT. You can fight stress better when you’re in good shape, so put the basics in place. Eat right, exercise, and try to get enough sleep. Take probiotics and a good multivitamin-multimineral supplement to make sure you’re getting the nutritional support you need, and drink bone broth every day for its healing and calming effects.
These steps won’t make your life stress-free—wouldn’t we all love a way to do that?—but they’ll help you take control over your stress, rather than letting it control you. And that will translate into a smaller belly, fewer wrinkles, more energy, better health, and a MUCH happier you.
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!