January 2016! This year is a big one for me. Not only will I get my masters but I will also hopefully get a “real-girl” job and will have to move (where that will be I have no clue). Since returning back to school from Christmas break all I’ve been able to think about is my to-do list. I have a lot to accomplish and learn in the next couple of months. On top of that, life has been happening and as we all know, life is a rollercoaster… It definitely has ups and downs. The combination of these things has caused for me to be slightly stressed and have a tiny bit of anxiety (something I rarely EVER experience). This has been kind of new for me because I’m not anxiety prone… I can’t remember a time when I haven’t had my plate full of things to do but not until recently have I experienced a constant nervous feeling. Luckily, during this time I so happened to be reading the book, Change Your Brain Change Your Body by Dr. Daniel G. Amen. If you’re interested in learning about the brain (or just a big nerd like me) I would definitely suggest checking it out.
Stress is inevitable in our society. Most of us always have something to do, work long as heck days and don’t get enough sleep… Something that will greatly impact stress levels and anxiety. Speaking of sleep, I can’t stress enough (no pun intended) how important it is! Dr. Amen has an entire chapter dedicated to the importance of sleep and I 100% understand why. Get your 7-8 hours of sleep every night! It is SO worth it. Along with that, he also has a chapter about stress. Constant stress not only can cause negative emotions but it also significantly harms the brain, makes you look older, can make you sick, can make you gain weight, can mess with your mental health, and can even make you infertile. Dr. Amen dives heavily into each of these topics describing how stress can cause such frightening responses. He then goes on to discuss ways to reduce stress levels. I took a lot of time reading this chapter because I know that I have a lot of stress right now that might only get worse if I don’t do something about it.
I was a bit skeptical about the list of ways to help calm stress. However, not only does Dr. Amen have a lot of research to support his methods but I tried some of them myself to determine if they actually worked. Here are his 16 ways to help calm stress. He suggests choosing 4-5 of them that you like best. Like I said, I highly suggest reading the book so that you can get the details of all of them. I highlighted which methods I’ve been using to help calm myself throughout the entire day.
I pray every day. I used to forget (for lack of a better term) but after I created the habit, I realized that it has become so fundamental for me to just sit and have that time with God. Even if I don’t say anything or think about anything, I just need that time with Him.
Get enough sleep… Just do it. Make the time. If that means you go to bed at 8:30 PM because you have to be up at 4:30 AM, do it. This is something that obviously takes more time out of our busy lives but is so important.
Exercise! I think you all can probably tell that I make sure to do this on a regular basis. Even 10 minutes of working out has calmed my nerves. If you need some ideas for short workouts I will post them all in the “12 Days of Christmas” workout tab.
Diaphragmatic breathing was something I thought, “Ehh…” about. I told myself that whenever I felt even the slightest bit of anxiety that I would try this out. Sure enough, I got nervous the next day and tried. It calmed me within about 1 minute. I was shocked… This will be something I do regularly.
I’ve heard multiple times that lavender helps you fall asleep but I don’t think I had ever heard of it relieving stress. As soon as I read this section I immediately pulled out my lavender essential oils jar and put a drop or two on my wrists. I’ve done this every morning since then. I don’t know if this is what is making me feel so calm but I do know I smell extra good! I will probably get some lavender scented bubble bath or candles when I get the chance…
Avoid substances that harm the brain. This one is tough because he’s referring to things such as caffeine, sugary snacks, alcohol, and smoking. These substances are some of the absolute worst ways to cope with stress. Alcohol and smoking… I do drink from time to time but it is so rare that I’m not changing much by not doing that. Smoking I just think is flat out stupid so I have never and will never take part in such. Caffeine and sugary snacks however… OH HECK! Me and a warm donut with a hot cup of coffee go hand in hand. I mean how am I supposed to know if I’m making the perfect donut if I can’t eat it? Caffeine, on the other hand, I’ve been more successful at. I’m not much of a soda drinker at all but I do love a good cup of coffee or tea. I’ve stopped drinking coffee (I can’t/won’t say I’ll never drink coffee again…) and opted for caffeine free tea. When I do drink caffeine nowadays it is the one and only, Spark. Spark does contain caffeine but it has over 20 minerals and nutrients so I won’t give it up (if you haven’t tried it you need to).
Laugh more! I laugh very often but I’ve really started to be cognizant of it and to make sure I laugh instead of getting upset (a reaction typical of me when my mom does something that I think is crazy). Also, I’ve been watching comedies while I run on the treadmill instead of shows like the beloved, Law and Order SVU, to stimulate some laughter when my laughometer is low.
I think it would be very difficult for me to choose one of these alone that is causing a reduction in my stress/anxiety levels. I’m guessing it is a culmination of a few that are doing a majority of the work. I still have a long to-do list and life is still happening but I’m feeling great. If you have any sort of stress/anxiety I suggest you try these out and get Dr. Amen’s book from the library! They both can help you significantly.
Lastly, I read this verse a few days ago that I haven’t stopped thinking about. It relates directly to #12 on Dr. Amen’s list of ways to cope with stress- live in the present. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34