Please note that I am not a doctor and cannot emphasize enough that if you suffer from debilitating stress and anxiety you should absolutely seek professional help.
I’m stressed. You’re stressed. We’re all pretty stressed out. As a matter of fact, 8.3 million adults in the U.S. suffer from serious psychological distress.
Not only that, but the ADAA reports that 40 million adults suffer from some type of anxiety disorder.
This is astonishing, but not necessarily surprising.
We were all created with defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from life-threatening danger. But for most of us, the physical dangers from long ago that typically triggered our fight or flight responses no longer exist.
So what have these physical dangers been replaced with? I would say any and all experiences that have the potential to bring us emotional, mental, or physical pain.
Relationship issues, financial struggles, health problems… these are only a few examples of what can bring us pain and lend to daily stress and anxiety.
So how are we supposed to cope?
For some that have an exceptionally difficult time managing stress and anxiety, they may turn to prescription drugs to cope, however studies show that only about 1/3 of those who suffer seek treatment.
So for those who are either unable or unwilling to go on medication, but are in search of some alternative strategies to manage stress and anxiety, here are some strategies that have been a tremendous help for me.
1. Change Your Relationship With Food
The foods we consume have a huge effect on the hormones that impact our mood and stress. Seratonin is the hormone that is responsible for mood-regulation, and 95% of its receptors can be found in the lining of the gut.
So whenever women open up to me about their struggles with stress and anxiety, my first question is always, “What is your diet is like?” Eight out of ten times, the response is, “Yeah, I know I need to start eating better.”
Typically the foods we turn to for comfort during times of stress are the same foods that elevate our stress hormones and cause mood swings. A diet made up of lean protein, fibrous vegetables, and complex carbs keeps your blood-sugar stable and provides physical and emotional balance.
2. Exercise for Stress Relief, Not Weight Loss
The hormones that are released during certain types of exercise are natural anti-depressants. But here’s the problem – there are certain types of exercise that can relieve stress, and other types of exercise that can elevate stress.
Exercising for stress relief is not the same as exercising for fat loss or body change. Just 15 minutes a day of restorative yoga, Tai Chi, brisk walking, or even deep breathing can lower the hormones that impact stress and anxiety.
3. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
For some, stress and anxiety are connected to a deep fear of the unknown. In the face of something new, unless there is a guarantee that we won’t experience the worst case scenario, our brains will fight to protect us from potential pain.
So what we need is exposure to small victories that will alleviate the fear of failure and open our minds to the potential for reward. A simple way to do this is to take small steps outside of boundaries you created for yourself just for the sake of comfort.
Doing something you normally wouldn’t do because it makes you feel uncomfortable, and then finding that you didn’t die when you tried it, can help diminish fear of the unknown and thus relieve the stress and anxiety connected to it.
4. Create Time to Worry
I recently began setting aside 15 minutes a day to write down everything I’m afraid of. Giving myself time to process my fears actually gave me the power to redirect my thoughts whenever feeling afraid throughout the day.
Sometimes the things that cause us stress and anxiety just need the time and space to be acknowledged. So instead of trying to suppress anxious feelings when they arise, set aside time solely to worry and process your anxious thoughts.
5. Practice Living in the Present
My husband and I are complete opposites in that he is reactionary and I am emotional. He only reacts to what is happening in the moment, whereas I react based on what happened in the past or what may happen in the future.
Stress and anxiety over what may lie ahead is typically grounded in experiences that hurt us in the past. The best way to stop our past hurts from projecting stress and anxiety onto future events is to dial into what is happening in the present moment.
More often than not, focusing solely on what stands before us gives us the clarity and direction we need to create the future we want instead of the future we fear.
I once had a client who occasionally struggled with depressive and anxious feelings. But after only four weeks of trying some of these strategies, not only did she lose ten pounds, but those depressive feelings began to disappear, too.
If you’re looking for the tools you need to properly cope with stress while focusing on health and weight loss, then my Rest Based Weight Loss e-course is designed to help you do just that.
Now I’d love to hear from you. When you feel yourself becoming stressed and anxious, what are some strategies you use to cope?