When I was gathering resources for my first stress portfolio, one picture left a deep impression. It says: “there are only two times I feel stress: day and night.” Yes, stress exists along with our whole life; it may seem that there is nothing that we can do about stress. The homework and exams will keep coming, there is endless study and work in the day, and our career and family responsibilities will always be demanding. However, the good news is that stress can be managed.
The simple realization that you are in control of your life is the foundation of stress management. Managing stress is all about taking charge of your thoughts, emotions, schedules, and the way you deal with problems. Stress is not always bad. Eustress can be beneficial; however, more times we are suffering from distress which causes health consequences, affecting the immune, cardiovascular and neuroendocrine and central nervous systems, and takes a severe emotional toll. For this stress management plan, I’ll go through five main aspects which are nutrition, exercise, rest and sleep, relaxation, and developing hobbies to help manage daily stress. Nutrition
Stress and nutrition have always been linked. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. Eating well through the day is my first stress dealing strategy. Start right with breakfast. There are a lot of times I do not feel hungry or do not have enough time to cook a nutritious breakfast in the morning. Usually I just end up with grabbing a piece of bread with a slice of turkey or ham, and then hurry to class. According to the research, breakfast is considered as the most important meal of the day; it helps to kick start metabolism for the day and also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels which will in turn reduce stress. So instead of waking up my body with a cup of coffee, I would drink some warm water and fruit juice.
Also, having a whole-grain cereal and eggs would help me gain better nutrition than eating toasted bread. Eat well throughout the day. There are 350,000 different forms of edible plants on this planet. A variety diet is essential as different types and colors of food contain different vitamins and minerals. The body can get stressed by trying to break down the same food time and time again. So eating a ‘rainbow’ colors of foods will not only provide the body more nutrition and energy, but also help deal with stress. To beat stress through nutrition, you also need to pay attention to the consumption of sugar, salt, and caffeine, getting more fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding skipping a meal during a stressful day. Exercise
We all know that exercise is important in our daily life. It increases energy levels, improves muscle strength, reduces heart disease, enhances the immune system, reduces the risk of certain cancers, and so on. Meanwhile, exercise benefits our mind just as well as our body. It improves brain function, lower stress levels, and help prevent and treat mental illnesses like depression. Any kind of physical activity may help reduce and prevent the effects of stress. Even some gentle exercise like taking a walk works too. When I suffer through a stressful day, I’m more likely to refuse taking time to do exercise, but keep working on my things without a break. Even though I’m aware of the benefits of exercise, it’s hard to change my mindset under stress. But for the last few months, I forced myself to walk to school every day instead of driving. Doing so gives me at least a 20 minute walk every day and allows my brain to take a break. The 20 minutes’ walk did not reduce my work load, but increased the working efficiency. Therefore I can do the work faster with a higher quality, and reduce my stress level at the same time. Rest and Sleep
How we feel during the waking hours hinges greatly on how well we sleep. A good night’s sleep makes us able to tackle the day’s stress more easily. When we get tired, we are less patient and more easily agitated, which can increase stress levels. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Lacking sleep is not only bad for health, but increases stress levels and lowers daily working efficiency. Sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to the quality of nightly rest. To be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy during the day, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and rest. For my personal experience, I do not have sleeping troubles, but suffer more from staying up late and lacking sleep.
When I have studying or work left from the day, I tend to stay up late instead of waking up early to get the work done on the next day. Usually after finishing the work, my body already is exhausted, and I fall asleep in just one minute. However, lacking sleep makes me feel very tired the next day, and this effect lasts for the whole day. Sometimes I feel my body woke up, but my brain did not. This definitely lowered my work efficiency, and increased my anxiety. To overcome this bad habit, I’m trying to make a change of my sleeping schedule and become a morning person. Relaxation
With the increasing life stress and accelerated pace of life, more and more people lose their skills to relax. However, to effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. We can achieve this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, and yoga. Relaxation techniques are skills that need to be developed with patience and practice. After the first term studying in the US, I was burned out, and I knew deeply that I had to find a way to study and live with a quality even though there was so much for me to handle in a foreign country. So I began to add 15 minutes rest and relaxation after lunch and dinner in my daily schedule. During this precious time, I allow no study, no work, no electronics, and only close my eyes and lay in the sofa, with nothing in my mind. Doing this really helped me clear my thoughts, and rest my whole body. To keep doing this and not allow other obligations to encroach on that is another goal in my stress management plan. Developing Hobbies
For a balanced lifestyle, play is as important as work. Hobbies can be very enjoyable and inspiring. Over the years, I found developing hobbies is a good way for me to reduce stress while adding a sense of accomplishment to life. I enjoyed all music related activities when I was young, and got the chance to learn how to play piano, and it became my hobby for more than ten years. I also enjoy trying to figure the music out when I get to hear a new liked song. Each time when I play music, I enjoy the relaxing moment that all stress seems gone. I recently registered a piano class for next term. Doing so I will not only get the chance to improve my piano skill, but also add a great way to reduce the stress level of my overseas study. To better achieve my stress management plan, I made a table to fill in all the listed aspects in my daily life.
Stress may attack us at any time and any situation. Therefore, to know stress symptoms and be aware of how to treat them is very important. Although there are medications and drugs that could help treat some of these symptoms, the majority of research and studies insist on more natural ways to cope. My own solution to fighting off stress is to develop positive attitudes where even a stressful situation could be turned to a benefit, to take up natural coping mechanisms such as through meditation and fitness programs, make time to relax, and adopt a healthy lifestyle, etc. I believe that all the listed stress management techniques will continue helping me to reduce my stress.
http://psychcentral.com/lib/beating-stress-through-nutrition/000941 http://www.stress.org.uk/How-food-can-help-your-stress-levels.aspx http://stress.about.com/od/dietandsuppliments/a/stressnutrition.htm http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/exercise.html