How You Can Shift and Implement Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Stress
Do you ever feel like your emotional reactions take control of you and you have no choice but to follow in their destructive path?
Don’t worry you’re not alone. Most of us experience difficulty with control when we’re vulnerable due to hunger, sleep deprivation, and a host of other lapses in self-care.
You can be in control during difficult times, but you’ll have to be willing to make some changes. We live in a fast-food culture and look for quick fixes that don’t always exist. It’s really the commitment to ourselves that makes the difference, and commitment is a long-term change.
If you’re ready to make some lifestyle changes to reduce stress, I will do something I rarely do, give you a guarantee. I’ll guarantee you’ll feel mood improvement if you follow the five steps I outline below.
That doesn’t mean for one day, that means slowly making changes in your life to create new habits. It’s a journey, but it’s a journey worth taking.
I know you’re going to love the life you are building!
1. Balanced, Regular Meals as one of the Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Stress
This is a tall order for many people in this time of boxed dinners, long work hours and multiple time-consuming obligations.
Your body is a machine. Would you expect your car to operate at its best with bad fuel or no fuel? No. Think of your body the same way.
Maybe you aren’t going to change all of your eating habits this week, but could you start with one change?
Do you need to start with one day or one meal and work your way up to more? Do you need to add a healthy food like a vegetable or a fruit before you can think about taking away your daily donut? Find a solution that makes sense to you.
Prioritize yourself by setting aside time for good food.
2. Exercise and Movement as a Lifestyle Change
Increasing movement in your life does not have to mean going to the gym every day. Just because your best friend or your sister works out every day does not mean that’s the plan that works best for you.
Set yourself up for success with lifestyle changes to reduce stress by knowing yourself. Are you most likely to take a walk or do some yoga in the morning, afternoon or evening? How long can you stay focused? Do you need to rotate your exercise so as not to get bored? Do you hate running and therefore will never follow through on a plan to train for a 5K?
Do not set yourself up for failure before you even begin. Be realistic and set small goals. You can always increase once your meet a goal or you become comfortable with your current plan.
Think outside the box for creative ways to get movement into your day.
3. Healthy Sleep Habits
When we sleep, we heal. Without proper sleep we slowly breakdown physically and mentally.
If you know you are someone who operates best with seven and a half hours of sleep, make that happen. It may mean you have to sacrifice something else like staying up late to finish watching that movie or reading the end of that chapter. Being rested and alert is worth it.
If getting the right amount of sleep makes it so that you can function better in your life, it needs to be prioritized. Keep in mind that different people’s bodies work differently, so the amount of sleep you need may be different from someone else.
Listen to your body and try not to make it fit into someone else’s mold.
4. Prescribed Medications
If you have prescriptions the assumption is that there is something in your body or mind that needs a little help so those prescriptions are important to continue. Be sure to communicate clearly with your physician about those medications so you know why you’re taking them.
It’s up to you to be informed about what goes into your body. If you are prescribed a medication but don’t really think it’s what you want or are frustrated with a doctor giving you yet another pill to take, you’ll be at risk of stopping that medication without a plan or intention. This is potentially dangerous depending on the medication.
You may also be prone to forgetting a medication you aren’t really fond of. If you are having a hard time coping with today, check to see if you took your medication, if you didn’t it may help to explain why you are having such difficulty.
Our minds and bodies are more connected than you might believe. Be kind to them both.
5. Reevaluating our Relationship with Alcohol and Illicit Drugs
You either looked at the heading of this section and said, “Yeah, duh,” or “Sure, but…”. Substances are a large part of our culture and are not bad unto themselves. It’s how we use them.
You may really enjoy a glass of wine or two at night. Can you go a week or two without it? Run the experiment and find out what your relationship with that nightcap really is.
It takes a lot more work to use healthier coping strategies and they are not as immediate often as a substance, but they will last a lot longer and help get rid of the core issue instead of avoiding it.
If you aren’t in control of your substance use, it’s in control of you.
Excess can create vulnerabilities to mental and physical disturbances. If you aren’t willing to set your substance of choice aside, consider what moderation would look like.
Give yourself a chance to be in control.
6. Take Down Time and Mental Health Breaks
If you see strength in powering through being tired or stressed, remember that it will eventually catch up with you. Our minds are like muscles. If you tense a muscle for too long without reprieve, it will eventually fail. Try holding your arm out in front of you all day with no option to put it down and see what happens.
If your mind is constantly on the go it never gets a chance to recover, which then makes it less capable of doing the work you need it to do.
Taking a day off and slowing down are signs of strength because they show you are willing to care for yourself, which is often much harder than focusing your attention on everything else.
When you care for your body, your mind will feel cared for, too. You will have greater control, greater strength, faster thinking, increased insight, more patience and so much more. All of this will increase your resiliency and reduce your stress. Isn’t that what we are all looking for?
It’s not easy to change or to make better choices for yourself if you are used to making less beneficial ones. Start out small and let yourself acknowledge each little victory until you notice that you really did manage to make those changes and are feeling stronger than ever.
Kate Evans is the owner of Soulful Space, a virtual life coaching and decluttering company. Kate helps overwhelmed women declutter their lives and homes. She has worked in the field of psychology since 2004, is an RYT-200 certified yoga teacher, and a writer currently working on a book bringing self-help and decluttering together for lasting change. To learn more about Kate, the work she does, and to read her weekly blog for your mind, body, soul, and space, go to www.soulfulspacecoaching.com. Kate can also be found on Instagram and Facebook @soulfulspace.coaching.