Stress is part of our everyday life. It can be stress like not finding a parking spot or spilling your coffee, or stress from the pandemic and all that entails. Or what we consider bigger stresses like losing your job or getting a scary diagnosis.
Yes, stress is a part of our lives and it seems unavoidable. But how we deal with it is what’s important. When we deal with stress it helps us feel in control again.
I’ve been feeling the low-grade stress of this pandemic and the reoccurring lockdowns. That sent me on a quest to find ways to combat stress and lower my cortisol levels. For the last few months I have been sharing my research. We discovered some cool ways to lower stress levels and our cortisol with special attention not only to our bodies, but also our minds and spirits.
The teacher in me says we should do a review and check our progress. So here we go!
We learned that sleep is vital to lowering our stress.
The first post was about how to cope when you can’t get your brain to shut off so you can sleep.
We learned to: 1. Write down our worries 2. Practice deep breathing 3. Use imagery – find a safe place
4. Concentrate our thoughts on gratitude 5. Try a meditation or sleep app.
These are all good ideas to help us shut off our brains so that we can relax and fall asleep.
The second post on sleep was about what we can do to combat stress and get a good night’s sleep.
We were reminded to: A) set a bedtime and stick to it B) choose low intensity workouts in the evening
C) practice good sleep routines D) limit our time on our phone or computer before bedtime
E) make a to-do list before bed F) keep a journal to help us process thoughts and emotions
G) spend time with family members H) pray and let God be in control
I have been really trying to make sleep a priority and one of my little steps to health.
It’s taken some real discipline to stop scrolling through social media and get ready for bed. But it’s worth it!
After a good 7 to 7.5 hours sleep I cope so much better with the stress of life. What about you? It’s so easy to just get one more thing done or watch one more episode. Have you made getting more sleep a priority?
Then we discovered that deep breathing helps reduce our stress anywhere and anytime.
Our Moms used to say, “Just calm down and take a couple of deep breaths. You’ll feel better.” They were right!
According to the American Institute of Stress, deep breathing affects our bodies in such good ways.
Deep breathing causes: 1. Our metabolism to decrease 2. Our heart to beat slower and our muscles to relax
3. Our breathing to slow down 4. Our blood pressure to decrease.
I even found us a specific technique. You can check the 4-7-8 technique
This one is a struggle for me; I often find myself breathing way too shallow. I need to put a card on the bathroom mirror and do some deep breathing every time I go in there. Have you made deep breathing a habit yet?
Our Moms were right again when we were reminded to get outside in the sunshine and play. It’s good for us!
Spending time outside and preferably in the sunshine helps us cope with stress. It helps improve the quality of our sleep.
The production of serotonin – the naturally occurring feel good hormone – happens when we are outside in the sunshine. As well, it causes our bodies to produce Vitamin D.
Taking a break and going outside also increases our creativity and improves our brain function. All good reasons to have some fun in the sun!
This one is easier for me to do as the warm spring weather is so inviting. I walk outside most days.
On the next post I confessed that I had fallen into an easy habit of complaining. Our minds and our thoughts are also a factor in how we deal with stress.
My complaining and negative attitude had to go! When I focused on the negative it took over my thoughts.
Does that ever happen to you? Too easily I lose my joy.
These good words challenged me; “ Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Philippians 2:14. Instead of complaining my plan is to refocus on what is good and have an attitude of gratitude.
This one will always be a work in progress for me. I do try to catch myself when I am about to complain and to rephrase the statement or just not say anything at all.
Getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine gives me energy and I can just feel the stress leaving my body and my mind. Sometimes I combine my walk with prayer and that takes my stress level down even more.
But our bodies adapt and if we always do the same walking route at the same speed we need to change things up a bit to get more benefit.
We can change our usual walking workouts by incorporating speed bursts. Or including some hill climbing.
Another idea is to do trail walking or hiking. Nordic pole walking is another way to really change up a walk and involve our arms and shoulders more.
I have been doing some speed burst walks and a hill climb walk when I am at the Lake House. I am working on making them part of my weekly walking routine. Have you tried one of the new walking workout suggestions yet?
These posts have all been little changes or steps to health that I have been working on to reduce my stress and lower my cortisol level. I share them with you because it is my hope and prayer that you have been encouraged to give these ideas a try too.
The ideas are simple. If you are like me it can seem too simple. It’s easy to be drawn to the new shiny diet and exercise program.
The shiny new diet and exercise program lures me with the hope that this will be the one that works and will give me instant success. Yup, I am still drawn to them, even though I know they don’t work for me. Crazy eh?
But you know what? Lifestyle changes make the difference! Diets and programs usually have a start date and a stop date.
Instead I have learned that little changes or little steps that I can make are realistic. They are things that become part of my lifestyle. No start date and no stop date. Just little things I do everyday that make a difference.
What about you, my friend, do these ideas for coping with stress sound good? Which ones have you tried? Are there some new ones you will try?
Today’s little step: Pick one of these little steps to reduce your stress. Make it a lifestyle change. If you need some accountability for your choice, then send me a message or leave a comment and we can connect!
Remember every little step makes a difference!