I have seen more articles lately about the difference between “good” stress and “bad” stress. My initial question was how is stress ever good? It turns out that short-term stress, when coupled with sufficient periods of rest, can help us adapt to changes, learn new tasks, be more aware, and boost the immune system.
The problem comes when stress becomes chronic, with no or little time when you feel relaxed. Feeling stressed much of the time worsens conditions like depression and heart disease, suppresses your immune system and affects your thinking.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage your stress and improve resiliency. I have previously written about mindfulness meditation. Exercise, play with pets and make time for people and activities that you enjoy.
These 10 tips from BJC Healthcare (no relation!) offer several other ideas on managing stress.
1. Reduce caffeine intake. Studies have shown that caffeine can increase levels of stress hormones.
2. Take along some healthy food. Don’t suffer the consequences of missed meals and fat-laden fast food binges.
3. Don’t “treat” stress symptoms. Treating your tiredness, lack of energy, anxiety or worries with alcohol, sedatives, stimulants, nicotine or other substances will only worsen the stress symptoms in the long run.
4. Evaluate dietary supplements carefully. Not everyone under stress needs supplemental vitamins and minerals. Ask your doctor if you would benefit from dietary supplements.
5. Eat breakfast. Even if you’re late for your first meeting, grab a bite to eat. Stress amplifies our need for adequate fuel. Your mood will improve too.
6. Drink water. Sipping water gives you something to do when nervous and might help you resist the urge for caffeine or junk food.
7. Make sleep a priority. Sleep provides essential rejuvenation time. You may have to sacrifice social events or household chores, but don’t skimp on sleep.
8. Don’t fall prey to denial. If you are experiencing serious psychological or physical symptoms, don’t just write them off. Detect and diagnose problems early when they are treatable and manageable.
9. Walk somewhere each day. While you might not have time for a workout, you can emphasize walking in your daily schedule. Just 10-15 minutes can help clear your head and improve your mood.
10. Schedule medical and dental appointments. Regular checkups and screenings are a must for those with stressful lifestyles. Make appointments well in advance and plan your schedule around these appointments.
For more information, see this short article from Stanford Medical News called Good Stress, bad stress
For those of you planning your racing season, check out this Active.com article on yoga poses to calm race-day jitters.