The holidays are just around the corner (wow) and they are the most stressful time of the year for so many people. Late nights, overindulging, more cocktails than our bodies are used to, traveling, maybe too much time with family… all of this leads to STRESS in your body! It’s no wonder we end up feeling groggy, out of it and low energy come January 2nd.
I thought this was a perfect time to share some tips to help you get ahead of the holiday stress, as well as find relief from any stress you may be feeling now.
As a yoga teacher and Holistic Health Coach, I find it extremely important to really know how to manage stress – because it is inevitable. Often clients come to me for help with food (i.e. What the heck should I eat every day?!?) but we end up talking a great deal about how to manage the stress in their lives. Because the truth is, you could be eating all the kale in the world, but if you’re stressed out your body cannot digest it properly + use the nutrients.
Stress is inevitable. But the good news is that we have control over the way we respond to it!
We are collectively starting to grasp the true impact chronic stress has on our bodies and minds (and souls!), but there are still SO many people who still think that stress is just something to endure and is “impossible to deal with.” People who know stress is harmful but choose to ignore this fact and think, “yeah, but nothing bad will happen to me… I’m not THAT stressed out.”
I was guilty of thinking that way for a long time, too! The truth is, I was so overly stressed out that it just felt normal for me. I couldn’t even recognize when I was feeling stressed out because it was just a constant, underlying feeling every day. It was like I was completely numb to it.
It’s important to know that a little bit of stress is actually good for you. It can motivate us to get things done, improve cognitive function and increase immunity in the short term. The issues arise when stress is always there, and it becomes your normal way of being. This is chronic stress and it’s the most dangerous type, leading to a multitude of illnesses. I know what that feels like… that’s why I’m so passionate about helping my clients get to the root of their stress and find ways to manage it that work for them.
I’ve experimented and found the ways of dealing with stress that actually work for me, and I want to share them with you.
You probably hear this a lot, especially if you practice yoga regularly, but it is truly the quickest and simplest way to immediately feel less stress. When you notice thoughts or body patterns that indicate you’re stressed, STOP what you’re doing. Close your eyes, put your hands on your belly do four 4,7,8 breaths. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts, and release for 8 counts. Do that 4 times and feel your body and mind slow down. Bonus: do this every night before bed and every morning when you wake up.
If you didn’t know this already, getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep is non-negotiable. Every single night! Everyone is different, and some people truly can get by with less than 7 hours, but in most cases sleeping less than 7 hours messes with your hormones. Inadequate sleep makes it so much harder for you to respond to situations the way you want to. When you don’t get enough sleep, sugar cravings increase, inflammation levels rise, your body stores more fat, your blood sugar levels go up and you feel like crap! If you have a hard time sleeping, I have a few recommendations.
- Create a nighttime routine. Our bodies love routine, and doing the same, relaxing things each night can help signal to our brains and bodies that it’s time for sleep.
- Ditch the electronics at least 1 hour before bed!! I cannot stress (no pun intended) this enough. If you’re serious about getting good quality sleep, looking at the harmful blue light is one of the worst things you can do before bed. It suppresses melatonin, which causes it take longer for us to fall asleep. Plus, scrolling through social media triggers a dopamine high – we see something we like, it triggers our reward center, so we keep scrolling, then we see something else we like, and dopamine releases again. This is why we can spend HOURS scrolling and not even realize it! Aside from making you stay up later than is necessary or healthy, looking at social media before bed makes it really hard for your brain to be in a resting place and prepare for sleep. Give your body and mind the rest they deserve – put the phone down before bed!
- Try taking magnesium 1 hour before bed. It’s referred to as the “original chill pill,” and for good reason. It calms nerves, promotes relaxation, helps lower heart rate, relieves muscle aches, helps with digestion, regulates levels of calcium and potassium and prevents migraines. I recommend using magnesium glycinate, because some of the other forms can have a laxative effect!
- MOVE YOUR BODY
For most of us, when we’re feeling stressed or like we have too much to do, a workout is the first thing to drop off the calendar. But exercise is one of the best natural stress relievers there is! You know that feeling you get when you finish a really great and challenging workout? That I-can-do-anything-and-I-feel-like-I’m-on-a-cloud feeling? That’s your body producing endorphins, aka your body’s natural painkillers that elevate your mood. Exercise also reinforces our natural circadian rhythms, helping you fall asleep easier and get better quality zzz’s. Obviously, I am a big fan of yoga! You get exercise PLUS deep breathing, and when you focus on the breath it’s like a moving mediation. I love to incorporate both reformer Pilates and yoga throughout the week, depending on what my body needs. If you’re not in the habit of working out regularly, start slow, maybe going for a 20-minute walk either outside or on a treadmill, or take a gentle yoga class. After a while, exercise can and will become a part of your day that you look forward to! If you already exercise regularly – switch it up. Don’t normally go to yoga? Take a class this week! If you live in the South Bay of LA, I teach an all-levels Vinyasa Flow on Fridays @ 4:30pm at LYFE Yoga and would love to see you there!
ASK, IS IT TRUE?
So often we tell ourselves things that make us feel more anxious and stressed out. “I have way too many things to do today, there’s no way I’ll get it all done.” Sound familiar? Just typing that makes me panic! When you become aware of these thoughts, you can begin to question them. My favorite thing to ask myself is, “Is that really true?” I often realize that I’m over-exaggerating and that I have maybe 5 things to do and I can get 3 of them done for sure today. Putting a real number on it helps me see that I CAN get the important things done – and that the rest of it can wait.
EASE UP ON YOURSELF
We put so much pressure on ourselves to look, feel, act a certain way. We feel that by checking off a bunch of items on our to-do list that we’re productive and that makes us good enough. But the reality is, this way of thinking and treating ourselves makes us feel like we’re holding up the world on our shoulders. It’s so important to cut yourself some slack. One way I do this is after writing my to-do list in the morning, I say to myself, “I’m only one person. I’m not going to get this all done today, and that’s ok.” Giving myself a break and knowing that I’m not Super Woman feels like a huge (instant) relief.
MAKE TIME FOR YOU
It’s crucial that we find consistent time for self-care. Usually those who naturally give to others find it the most difficult to take time for themselves. But for us, it’s especially important that we take care of ourselves, so we can show up more fully for ourselves and those who need us. I’ll admit, this is still a work in progress for me! I’ve found it helpful to schedule my self-care right into my calendar on my phone each week, and make sure that I treat it like my most important meeting.
This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, like a 2-hour massage or full day at a spa. Just do whatever feels good for you. Maybe it’s taking a bath with candles, enjoying a cup of tea while listening to music alone, going for a walk in nature + being present to your surroundings, taking a yoga class, dancing in your living room, using essential oils, reading a story. Whatever lights you up and makes you feel cared for, make nonnegotiable time for that each week! I like to dry brush my body 4 – 5 times per week – it’s great for exfoliating and stimulating the lymphatic system. I love that I’m taking the time to care for my body, and the action becomes meditative when I focus on what I’m doing.
This is something that I feel really strongly about, because it changed my life. Develop a consistent mindfulness meditation practice and stick to it! You can start out with 3 – 5 minutes each day focusing on your breathing and gradually work your way up from there, increasing 5 minutes each week. People always ask what the best time is, and while I prefer to meditate in the morning, I say the best time is the time that you will actually do it! If it’s going to stress you out to do it in the morning because you’ll be rushing to work, then do it when you get home or before bed. If you need help getting started or can’t sit there and just focus on your breath, I recommend downloading the free Insight Timer app and selecting a guided meditation from there.
Is there anything that gratitude can’t fix!? By getting into the habit of writing down at least 3 things you’re grateful for every day, you can drastically improve your life! Something so small and seemingly pointless really does make a big difference. The more often we do this, the easier it gets, and it will start to become our default way of thinking. Plus, it’s been proven that focusing on what you’re grateful for shifts your brain into a positive space and lowers your overall stress.
This doesn’t have to be a very formal process. You can find a piece of scrap paper, write in the corner of your calendar or notebook, or write in a journal. The point is to just write somewhere. You might find it hard to find things that you’re grateful for (I know I did first), so I can offer a few ideas to get your wheels turning: I’m grateful for my body, my home, my warm and cozy bed, my ability to see, hear, touch, smell, my job that allows me to afford my life, my significant other, my ability to buy food that nourishes me, my family and friends, the sun, sky and stars, the universe. Anything goes – so long as you genuinely feel appreciative of those things in your life.
There you have it! My top tips for managing and relieving stress. These are the things that I personally enjoy doing to keep me balanced and feeling calm. My hope is that you to experiment and find out what works best for YOU. Don’t feel like you need to do all of these things right now (or at all). If the thought of having to add more things to your life makes you panic, then choose 1-2 things that resonate with you and to start from there. Then you can use this list as a guide when you’re ready to add something else in.
If you’re feeling like you could use support in managing your stress, sleep, and exercise to bring balance back into your life, then I’d love to invite you to a free Back to Balance Session with me. I know how challenging it can be to try to do all of the things all of the time. Sometimes we just need someone who’s been in our shoes to guide our path. I’d be honored to be that person for you! Book your session here.
GET IN TOUCH!
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This post was written by Amanda Castilone