Learn To Manage Stress For A Healthy Lifestyle
Today we’ll answer the question, what’s emotional intelligence about, and how it relates to, and partially responsible for your physical health and mental well being? If you’ve read
my previous articles, you will know that the emotional well being dimension is one of the nine life dimensions that helps determine your overall health and well being. You will also learn that all nine dimensions are inter-related and dependent on each other, and have to be in balance with other, in order to achieve and maintain overall health and well being. You may want to read Wikipedia’s definition of emotional intelligence here.
Picture yourself in a stress-free environment–you are on a beach. listening to the gentle waves, and the cool ocean breeze is hitting you in the face and blowing your hair about, and you have nothing to do except relax and enjoy the natural world around you. Bliss, right? Emotional wellness or well being isn’t hard when there’s no stress. In our 24-7 demanding world we live in, though, we face more stress than ever before. Burnout, chronic fatigue, depression, and poor life-work balance, are at alarming levels for everyone.
Fortunately, being emotionally well doesn’t mean eliminating all stress from your life. That would be impossible and, and obviously, not realistic–and also boring! “All human beings, need stress,” says Jack Goppel, cofounder of the Johnson & JohnsonHuman Performance Institute. “Stress, when well-managed, can assist you to grow and build resistance, just like exercise helps build muscles.”
When you’re emotionally well, you are better prepared to cope with stressors in healthy ways so that they don’t become overwhelming, and interfere with your functioning, or lead to unhealthy coping strategies, such as
overeating, alcohol or drug use, or smoking. It also means you are able to identify and express your feelings openly . Don’t ignore anxiety, sadness, depression, and anger. These emotions may be uncomfortable, but they are vital signals, and they are telling you something isn’t quite right with you emotionally? Persistent anger, or irritability, in particular, may be a sign of underlying anxiety or depression that is being repressed. If your feelings or emotions interfere with your ability to concentrate, or engage fully in your work, or enjoy the things you normally like to do, it’s time to look inward, and be mindful of yourself and what’s happening to you, and try to resolve your issues yourself, or if you are not able to, seek professional medical help. Here are some ways to combat stress, reduce anxiety, and depression symptoms, and keep yourself balanced.
Cognitive Behavioral Skills
Cognitive behavioral skills can help you promote mental health, build resistance, and deal with unavoidable stressors. They can also help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. These skills are based on components of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The gold-standard evidence-based treatment for mild to moderate anxiety and depression, cognitive-behavioral skills building (CBSB), begins with learning to recognize the relationship between what we think and feel, and our actual behaviors.
Many of our emotions result from our thoughts. Negative or scewed thoughts are often followed by feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression. Negative thinking can also lead to unhealthy and harmful behaviors. The pattern is referred to as the “thinking, feeling, and behavioral triangle.” Most people don’t consider their thought patterns because they’re automatic and pre-programmed in the brain. The first step in CBSB is to learn ABCs:
- Activating event–a stressful event occurs.
- Belief–the stressful event results in negative belief or thought.
- Consequence–you feel emotionally bad, or you behave in an unhealthy way.
One key of emotional wellness is catching your automatic negative thoughts and turning them into positive ones. When you feel physical symptoms of anxiety–such as rapid heartbeat, headache, stomachache, and sweating. Ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” Many negative thoughts become automatic, like any other habit. We don’t choose them, they just happen.
Recognize Triggers, and Change The Script
Learn to recognize what triggers negative thoughts. Let’s say a car cuts you off in traffic, this activating event, might provoke a negative automatic response, like–“That careless driver could have just caused an accident”,–sending your mood into a downward spiral. When you notice negative automatic thoughts, though, you can actually reverse them by thinking positive. You could write down ahead of time what you’d like to think in stressful situations, or, during that critical moment, you could take a deep breathe, and encourage yourself to think positive.
So, the next time a car cuts you off in traffic, and you begin to have a negative thought, stop yourself, and turn it into a positive thought, like, “Thanks heaven I’m safe,” He must be really upset about something.” This change in attitude, buffers you from the automatic negative response of feeling stressed and anxious.
Turn Your New Found Positive Attitude Into A Habit
Thirty days is the time required to break an old habit and establishing a new one,.and that includes the way we think. With time and practice, you can change your thinking in response to stressors in your life, too, and that will change what you think and how you feel. For the next thirty days, try montering your thoughts in response to activating or potentially stressful events. Try keeping a journal of stressful events, your thought patterns which followed, how you felt and behaved, and what you’d like to think instead. Your log will assist you to reinforce the idea of positive reaction, leading to developing the ability to cope with stressful situations always in a positive way, and each successive time, it becomes easier and easier, because you are changing your response into a positive habit..
Eventually, after understanding what’s emotional intelligence about and how to develop it, and what you can do about stressful situations, frustrating or challenging events may start to feel like opportunities to practice CBSB. You can gain a feeling of control and confidence over these types of situations, and soon you will feel better overall, as fewer automatic negative thoughts present themselves to you, and the result, your thoughts become, foe the most part, positive.
What Else Can You Do About Stress?
In addition to CBSB to deal with stress events that disrupt your emotional equilibrium, remember that the eight other life dimensions (physical, social, spiritual, occupational, environmental, aging, genetics, and intellectual), if in proper balance, will help strenghten and maintain your emotional well being, too. Here are a few more proven ways for you to relieve stress and feel better.
Start A Journal. Keep track of stress symptoms you are experiencing daily, such as anxiety, irritatibility, trouble getting restful sleep, concentrating, or bad habits such as overeating and chain smoking. Add to that list what you think is causing you the most stress. Some of these stressors can be unavoidable, but others can be avoided or reduced. List ways you can eliminate these stressors from your day, including creative ways to do it (refer to my last post about using creativity). For example, you might choose a route to work which is longer, but is less stressful to drive. Setting aside a little extra time to avoid stress triggers is worth it. Journaling is a good way to express and release your emotions, by forcing them outward, and you have to be mindful of them, and deal with them, not keep them buried inside, causing even more stress on top of stress.
Engage In Regular Physical Activity. Any activity helps reduce Cortisol buildup (Cortisol is a hormone which
has many negative effects on your brain and your body if it’s out of balance). If you are short on time, at least stretch your muscles with a resistance band for a few minutes, go foe a short walk, or learn a few simple Yoga postures, you can do anywhere. Remember thirty minutes of physical activity five days a week, is the evidenced based exercise recommendation.
Use Body Awareness Techniques. Try leaning against a wall, or simply pressing your palms together. These actions give your mind a reassuring sense of where your body is positioned in space, which can be calming, and easy to do even in a busy workday.
Get At Least Seven Hours of Restful Sleep Each Night. Sufficient sleep refreshes your mind and allows your body to repair and heal itself. Anything less than seven hours results in increased Cortisol production, and evidence shows a link between lack of sleep and depression. An inability to fall asleep and remain in sleep is a clear sign of depression.
Use Abdominal Breathing Exercise. This exercise can help slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. Try this: “Breathe in through your nose for a slow five count, while your abdomen expands, then out through your mouth for a slow count of five, and pull your abdomen in. On the breathe in, think, “I am calm,” On the breathe out, I am blowing all the stress out.” Just a few minutes of breathing can calm you down. You can work this in during your lunch break.
Think Positive. Always remember, “The glass is always half-full, not half-empty.” Read books about being positive,
such as “How Successful People Think Change: Your Thinking Changes Tour Life,” by John Maxwell, or “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Norman Vincent Peale, and, “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living: The Tested Methods For Conquering Worry,” by Dale Carnegie. Start by reading five to ten minutes a day to get your day started on a positive note, and shield yourself from negativity during the day.
Stay In The Present Moment. Worrying about the future, and guilt about events in the past, can cause undue stress. Learn how to stay in the present moment. For example, chew a piece of gum and count the number of chews it takes before the flavor runs out of the gum. The book, “The Present and The Gift of Changing Times,” by Spencer Johnson, is a great quick read that teaches the value of living in the present moment.
Meditate. Meditation can calm your mind and ease anxious, negative thoughts. Even a few minutes of visualizing a calm environment (beach) can release tension. Try a mobile phone app, such as CALM, to engage in guided imagery, or the MINDFULNESS app, which also has a health component.
Get Outside. Enjoying the wonders of nature can be a great way to relax. shed stress, and elevate your mood. Kick your shoes off and leave your cell phone somewhere else. If you are stuck indoors for a while, use screen savers with calming outdoor images, or listen to recording of relaxing natural sounds in your car, like water running in a stream, or my favorite, sounds of crickets and grasshoppers singing at night, I have on a CD.
Disconnect to Socially Connect. Technology can be overwhelming, so, regularly disconnect from TV, cell phone, computer, and social media, to stay connected to family and close friends. Cultivate new relationships when ever possible to build your social circle. Connect the old fashion way, eye-ball to eye-ball, one on one, and, please stop being a slave to your smart phone. Talk to someone you trust about what you are feeling.
Feed Your Emotional Well Being. Many people don’t realize it, but you are actually what you eat. Scientific research shows that eating healthy nutritious foods can drastically reduce stress and anxiety and depression, changing your mood and improving your way of life.
Research has also shown that low levels of vitamins, mineral deficiencies, and low intake of fatty acids and Omega 3s, can contribute to negative moods, and mimic various mental health issues. For example, insufficient level of Vitamin D, can lead to mood swings, depression, and fatigue. Food allergies and intollerances can have a great effect on your mood. Dietary changes have been suggested for children with ADHD and Autism. This suggests there is a strong link between nutrition, mood, and behaviors. High blood sugars lead to irrititability, while low blood sugars bring about feelings of anxiety, depression, lethargy.
Many people feel that it’s difficult to eat healthy, or to change their eating habits. It;s really simple, if you keep it simple, remembering it takes thirty days to break a habit and start a new one. Start slow and make changes over time, replacing unhealthy food with healthy nutritious food. Experiment with different grains, fruits, and veggies. Get creative and try new recipes and new ingredients. Start buying fresh, as possible, fruits and veggies from a small local farmer. Buy your fresh meats, poultry, and fish from a specialty market, which sells certified organic, grass-fed lean beef, and fresh free-range poultry, and fresh cold-water fish. For more information on an example of a specialty market where you can buy these healthy foods, read this article WHAT IS IN MACA ROOT.
Supplement Your Diet. As added assurance, in addressing defeciences, reducing unwanted stress, and improving your mood, you can accomplish this very effectively
by adding to your diet, a natural “Adaptogen”, organic whole food supplement, named Maca. The health benefits are well-established and wide-ranging. Remember, a plant that has earned the status of Adaptogen, is one of the few plants in the entire world that has the ability to naturally assist your body to “adapt” to stressors, and other harmful factors affecting your overall health and well being. Maca has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has the capabllity of balancing the Endrocrine System and all the hormones, boosting energy level, reducing stress, enhancing mood, learning, and memory, reduces signs of anxiety and depression, improves circulation and balancing alkaline ph level, and even improves libido, reduces symptoms of Menopause in women, and is effective in treating mild erectile dysfunction in men. WHAT IS STRESS RELIEF?
You have learned what’s emotional intelligence about, and also how to cope positively with stressors or emotionally-draining situations using the strategies outlined in this article, like exercising, expressing your emotions, remaining positive, using creativity, eating the proper nutrition, letting go of guilt and worry, and adding natural supplementation. A little stress is good for your body and mind to grow and build resistance, but, good stress management should be employed. AS The Dali Lama once said, “The suffering from natural disaster, we can not control, but, the suffering from our daily disasters, we can.” No truer words have ever been spoken. With these actions, you’ll feel more relaxed, healthier, and may be even ready to experience new exciting challenges you’ll welcome and enjoy experiencing.
Please address your questions below. If you have comments, or need additional information, let me know, and I’ll get back to you.