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Self Care Stress Busters - by Tanya Thompson
My life is filled with blessings: health, family, work I love. Yet sometimes, it feels as if the days are too short and there’s not enough of me to go around. As my to-do list grows, so does my anxiety. Why do I feel out of sorts, and what can I do to keep stress in check?
In the case of strain or tension, the nervous system responds by releasing a flood of hormones which prepare the body for emergency action. While merely uncomfortable in the short term, prolonged periods of stress can wear down and damage the body. To avoid this, when the schedule gets crazy, I pay extra attention to a few details of self-care.
First, with time in short supply, it’s tempting to sleep less. However, even slight sleep deprivation can affect memory, judgement and mood. I’m more efficient when well rested, so time spent snoozing, actually increases my productivity. To ensure quality shut-eye, caffeine and exercise are a no-go at least four hours before bed time. Screens get the boot an hour prior to nodding off.
Second, come hell or high water, the workout happens. Exercise reduces the level of stress hormones in the body, and elevates mood and energy. Sometimes my schedule allows for only 10 minutes of activity at a time. While not the normal routine, a few brisk, 10-minute walks, spaced throughout the day, are infinitely better than nothing at all.
Finally, when running around like mad, I try to eat healthy. Certain foods actually reduce stress by lowering the levels of hormones that trigger it. Green vegetables, tofu, nuts, beans, oatmeal and even a bite of dark chocolate, can help produce pleasure-inducing brain chemicals which help keep you calm and improve mood. As an added bonus, these foods counteract the natural blood sugar spike, which accompanies stress.
Reducing stress is an ongoing and worthwhile goal, which I actively work on. But, life happens. Family members get sick, work deadlines creep up, and amazing opportunities present themselves at inopportune times. While longer days and a clone or two would be nice, following some simple self-care protocol, is a close runner up.
Photo credit: Scott Thompson