As a Nutrition Health Coach for Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, I often discuss with my clients how they manage stress, which is a hot topic this time of year, when people are even busier than usual with all the time pressures and obligations of the holidays. Oftentimes the answer is: sugar, caffeine and/or alcohol. While those indulgences can be a quick fix for handling immediate stress, one can feel more, not less stress as the initial stressor wasn’t addressed.
Instead, I suggest finding ways to alleviate the stress with non-food/beverage options and then allow yourself a treat when the opportunity arises. The good news is that while we can’t do much to change outside stressors, we can control how we react to them and learn to manage our stress in healthy ways. Here are 8 tips to try:
- Slow down! No matter what you are doing, do it mindfully.
- Stay present. When you notice yourself worrying about the future or mulling over the past, bring yourself back to what is happening right now. Discipline your thoughts to note future concerns and past regrets, then set them aside.
- Practice clearing your mind. Set aside time (15 to 30 minutes) each day to strategize and problem-solve, then put those issues to rest the rest of the time.
- Let go of perfection. Your best is good enough – really. You’ll feel best and be most appreciated if you go easy on yourself and feel good about your accomplishments.
- Give yourself permission to say no. When asked to take on responsibilities that bring too much stress into your life, decline gracefully and don’t feel bad about it. Creating healthy boundaries helps reduce stress and empower us.
- Set aside quiet time for yourself. Take time every day to meditate, write in a journal, read a magazine, or take a bath. It can help to create a special relaxing place, but you can also just take a walk in the park.
- Make your surroundings as comfortable and peaceful as possible. For some, this may mean keeping things tidy. For others, it may mean having a no yelling policy at home. Do whatever it takes to make your space stress-free.
- Get moving every day, or as often as you can. Even 5 to 10 minutes can help ease tension and lift your mood.
For more information on stress management, consider attending one of Kaiser Permanente’s health education classes in stress management, held at a medical center near you. If you’re a Kaiser Permanente member, you can also take the online class Relax, which offers proven techniques for reducing stress levels.