It takes a million years for one gene to change in our bodies. One million years! I’m bringing this up because, physiologically, we’re the same humans we were 300 years ago. But look at how things have changed in that short time. Some things make life easier now: washers and dryers, transportation, abundance of food, electricity, etc. But some things make life today more insane: cell phones, traffic, increased population, fake food, TV, busy schedules. I heard a statistic from a doctor-friend that we make more decisions in one day than people used to make in a year. No wonder we’re stressed out and reaching for doughnuts or alcohol to cope.
All this craziness and high-speed living isn’t going away. Since we can’t change our genes, we have to create a map to navigate this crazy life. What can you do to try and stay on top of the stress so it doesn’t affect your health, happiness, or waistline?
1. Exercise. Amen for endorphins. Believe me, they’ve helped me many days with my perspective. If you have to work out, then go take a brisk walk and get that blood flowing. It isn’t about working out to lose weight — it’s about being healthy and staying sane.
2. Eat the real stuff. Crappy food (fast, processed, and loaded with sugar) doesn’t help your chemical brain and body handle stress. Living food, real food, helps support your mind and body while it’s trying to deal with the million things coming its way. Every time I reach for the chocolate, I’m looking to feel something from it. Don’t get me wrong — if it’s just a little here and there because I enjoy the taste of it, great. But if I’m using it the minute I feel overwhelmed, then that’s when that food is no longer OK to eat. It doesn’t make the problem go away, and then I just feel bad about eating the food to pacify myself. Grab green food instead. Put things in your mouth that are going to support your immune function and keep you levelheaded.
3. Notice. Try not to let the stress overtake you. Recognize the situations that cause the stress and notice them coming your way. You have a better shot at fending off the full effects of the stress when you can anticipate it.
4. Get it off your chest. Talk to a friend or partner about the stress. Sometimes just getting it off your chest can help unload some of the burden.
5. Keep your sense of humor. If you do have the chance to talk about it, try to see the irony and humor in the wacky bits. I think someone is dead in the water once they lose their sense of humor.
6. Stay grateful. My daughter has large lungs and verbal skills she likes to display. Just when I start to wishfully think about her being quiet, I remind myself to be grateful that she can talk to me at all. In almost all of our problems are boatloads of blessings. “Oh, I don’t feel like going to the gym.” Well, Amen that you have the means and the health to even be able to wrestle with the idea of going to work out. Make a habit of saying thank you. You will notice the sunny spots a lot more often, and not just the gray skies and storms.
7. Ask, “What’s the hurry?” Have some fun. We’re always so busy going somewhere, we miss just enjoying the moment. If an opportunity comes your way to do something fun, take it.
8. Take a deep breath. When you feel the stress getting to you, take a moment. Get away, even if it’s just for an hour, to be with yourself and your thoughts. Some people like to take a walk, meditate, lock themselves away in a beautiful bath, or go to church. Find the peace and the silence.
9. Keep it simple. Simplify where you can. Does Junior really need to be in 78 activities at the age of 5? Do you have to go to every little party or gathering you’re invited to?
10. Turn of the TV. A lot of it is bad news anyway, and it robs us of hours that we could use to be getting other things done. Since everyone complains that they have no time, get some by unplugging from the tube.
11. Sleep. If you’re rested, you have a better shot at handling things. Not to mention, you may not stress out as easily if you have a chance to recover at night.
12. Drink water. I have said it before: Americans consume 21 percent of their calories through liquid consumption. Hydrate with water. Help you entire system function better just by drinking enough water. Oh, and by the way, if you don’t think that weight loss and proper hydration have a relationship, think again. Shift the paradigm on its side — don’t think about exercise and nutritional eating just as something you have to suffer through to get into those jeans. Instead, think of them as armor that will protect you in this crazy world, with all of the bazillion details you deal with every day.