guest post by Jennifer Scott
For busy people, stress is a constant force. In its most positive form, stress can motivate us to work harder and achieve great things. But at its worst, too much stress can lead to health problems and bad habits.
After a stressful and tumultuous breakup, I had allowed several bad habits to make their way back into my life. Pair that with a big move across the country, and my stress snowballed out of control. Making the switch to a wellness-focused lifestyle isn’t easy, but I found reducing stress was vital to living a happier and healthier life – even if it’s still busy.
Healthy Habit #1 – Take time to disconnect
One stressor that could be plaguing you is over-connectedness. Sometimes, we all just need to disconnect from technology for a little bit of peace of mind. This is especially true when it comes to work. Healthy habit #1 involves turning off those email notifications after work hours. Like many people, I’m notorious for having my phone glued to my hand, but I made it a goal to turn my phone off by 7:00 p.m. every night. I found that by disconnecting, I was able to relax and wake up rested and ready to tackle the day.
“Researchers .. have found that although we may resist it, we really do need down time after work to mentally recharge for the next day … continuing to communicate with colleagues after hours not only creates stress, but it prevents your brain from relaxing and recouping from a long work day in preparation for the next,” notes Forbes.
This can also be applied to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. If you have a habit of browsing your feed in bed – stop! Disallowing electronics in your bedroom will teach your brain that the bedroom is a place for sleep and sleep only, and it will lead to more restful, higher-quality sleep.
Healthy Habit #2 – Don’t make all your free time family time
You love your family. We all love our families. But every single second of your free time doesn’t have to be family time. In fact, the stress from kids and relationship issues can cause great mental fatigue. Alone time is good time, and you should make time every day to do something with the person you know best – yourself. Even if you can’t necessarily escape, you can create a solitude space in your home using relaxing decor and a comfy chair. Let family members and partners know that this space is for uninterrupted alone time.
In the end, your alone time will likely strengthen your familial relationships too. “By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you desire in life, you’re more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around. You also may come to appreciate your relationships more after you’ve spent some time alone,” says Psychology Today.
Healthy Habit #3 – Choosing healthy coping mechanisms
People under a lot of stress have a tendency to look for whatever they can to help them deal with it. Oftentimes, the first solution we try is to escape and dull our senses. While having a drink now and then to unwind isn’t usually a problem, using drugs or alcohol as a crutch to deal with stress can become a dangerous habit.
There are many healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress. You can practice yoga, meditation, and/or focused breathing. Put your energy into a hobby or project. Spend your free time in nature. You might be surprised to learn that the method you choose has benefits beyond stress relief. For example, yoga provides immediate benefits such as improved brain function and flexibility. After a few months, you may notice lower blood pressure, improved sense of balance, relief from chronic pain, and anxiety relief. Years of yoga practice can also lower your risk of heart disease and build stronger bones. When you switch from trying to escape stress to actively reducing it, you reap the benefits in your overall health.
Healthy Habit #4 – Focus on eating right
Stress makes you want to eat unhealthy foods. It’s science. “Stressful events – and they don’t even have to be big, just the daily hassles of life – cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol causes food cravings, and … those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet foods,” says Prevention.com.
You have to be aware of this, and do what you can to fight it. Be prepared. Always have healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, and yogurt handy. Plan your meals and get ahead with your prep and cooking. Always take your lunch to work. Don’t skip breakfast. Eat foods rich in omega 3s like fatty fish, which can help give your brain a boost to help you fight high levels of stress.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing, but too much of it can lead you down a dark path of unhealthy habits. Instead, focus on adopting healthy habits which will help you manage your stress levels on a daily basis.
With SpiritFinder, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.