The 5 R’s of Stress Management for Better Health
Halloween has come and gone, weather is getting cooler, fall schedules are starting to wind down, and the daylight hours are ending sooner. If you are like me, you have been in a fall frenzy of coordinating practice schedules, homework, work schedules, and games. As I come up for air… it has shifted from September to November in a flash. Next up…holiday bustle!
With all of this chaotic ‘doing’, we can often take a hit to our immune system from stress overload, mismanaging stress and our bodies from poor nutrition, lack of sleep, or inadequate exercise and self-care. I tell myself I need to simplify, not take on so much, limit kids activities, but, the reality is… I’m a doer and my kids are doers. However, being a doer can lead to overload and stress if I do not keep things in check, reflect and reset when my body, mind and spirit alerts me I am not managing the stress and the ‘doing’ very well.
So, we all get into stress-full situations and can feel overloaded, yet we do not all know what to do with stress, how to manage stress as we cannot avoid it. We have heard that stress can have negative effects on the body’s immune system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, hormone balance and inflammatory process. However, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford University Psychologist, tells us that we should change our mindset about stress and learn to manage stress, or our body’s reaction to stress rather. She found, through research, that stress, when response is managed by retraining the brain, we can actually prevent cortisol overload and vascular constriction, which are the major negative effects of stress. Instead, we can enjoy the positive aspect of stress such as more blood getting to the brain and extremities, more oxytocin release, which leads us to seek support, social interaction and connection. The key to staying healthy in our busy, stress filled lives is to learn to become more resilient, or stress resilient. Here are The 5 “R’s” of how to develop stress resiliency.
- Reflect daily on what is working, what is not working and how you feel. This is part of mindfulness– being present and aware of your body and mind’s reactions to the environment or situation. Sometimes, we meet resistance in situations or with interactions and the resistance can bring about stress. Look at the situation, reflect, and decide if you need to change the way you view the situation, interact, or even let go. Reflection helps us do this, and we are reframing the brain and our stress response this way.
- Resilience development,or learning to overcome and recover from a stressful incident, disappointment or set back. Some of us become paralyzed, discouraged and even overwhelmed by things life throws our way. The key to developing resilience is acknowledging the difficulty or stressor, calm down and remember “this too shall pass” as my mother used to tell me. It is a temporary setback, which you have the tools to overcome and move on from.
- Have Realistic Optimism, as researchers like Dr. Brenee Brown and Dr. Martin Seligman found helps n managing life’s stressors. When you have perspective and look realistically, with realistic expectations at a situation, you can choose to believe that things will get better and that you have the power to improve a situation, be it through changing your mindset, believing the situation to be temporary, or finding the greater good or lesson to be learned. This optimism can help manage stress and the stress response vs. pessimism, which can enhance the stress response. This as a saving grace for me when my son had Cancer.
- Reframe the situation creating stress. Look at it in different ways so you can best manage it. This is having perspective, looking at “is this something I need to get worked up over?” or “Is this something I can let go of?” Again, having awareness of what the triggers are to stress in the situation and how to best manage them.
- Reset with good sleep, exercise and good, clean nutrition. Proper self- care will help you manage stress and help your body, mind and spirit be resilient. I always say healthcare starts with self-care. In order to keep all the ‘doing’ going, we need to be able to rest and reset. When we get off course with lack of sleep, not enough exercise or off track with our eating and drinking, we just need to acknowledge we are off track and push the reset button, mindfully, with acceptance and purposeful change. Mindful Meditationis a great way to consciously do this.
So, let it all go, relax, reflect, reset, reframe with realistic optimism to continue on your path to and active, participatory and healthy life. Be well beautiful soul!