Stress Management – Quick Strategies for Coping with Stress

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The Quick Take Away:

  • Eat less sugar: sugar is an extraordinary stress-inducing food that undermines our health in countless ways.
  • Sleep more: go to bed earlier because you still have to get up at your usual time, so to get more rest – one the most effective stress relief behavior you can engage in, and it’s free and feels great.
  • Exercise more: the body’s response to exertion is categorically a must for health in general but a key strategy for melting stress
  • Say no … more often: reduce the demands on your schedule by simply not committing to so many … things (for you, for your kids, at work).

We all do what we need to do to survive, “get by,” and in hopefully most cases, succeed.  In all of these, good, bad, or ugly, stress accumulates and adds to the load we’re already carrying through life.  Thankfully, we are surrounded with abundant information on how to productively quarantine, reduce, or ideally, dissipate the stress – the question is, have we looked into it yet?

There are none more powerful in managing stress levels than ourselves, and so we are charged with the responsibility of keeping tabs on how we are allowing stressors to affect us psychologically and ultimately, physically.  After reading Week 1′s SPARK Insight, we understand a few of the physiological effects of chronic stress, and are tasked with finding practical methods to incorporate daily to prevent stress-induced deficiency.

Here are some great “weapons” in our arsenal that everyone can use to combat chronic stress:

  • Bonfire’s FUEL section provides a wonderful way to eliminate some of the stress of having to “cook up” healthy meals to fuel a hungry household, and provides grocery shopping lists and recipes with instructions each week.  Not only does this help with the planning and shopping aspects, but the real, live, and whole ingredients in the meal plan help our bodies be properly set up to physically deal with our daily stresses.

We need to practice removing ourselves from our everyday stressors, even if for a few seconds at a time while right in the middle of them, and we need to be on-purpose about it.

One particularly inconspicuous strategy that is fun and costs nothing is a “three second vacation.”  For three seconds, close your eyes and let your mind transport you to the most relaxing place on earth – sights, sounds, scents, everything.  Breathe it all in deeply for three seconds, and then resume your activity (extend duration and/or repeat as many times throughout the day as necessary).

Also, to the extent that schedule and location make it practical, giving your body a chance to “reboot” comes highly recommended.

On a larger scale, we challenge you to use some of the most gratifying activities you’ve come to enjoy to assist in the battle against stress.  They don’t necessarily need to cost anything (it doesn’t cost much to take a sketch pad out to draw a landscape or to get out and climb a tree…preferably your own tree), but a reasonable expense is also acceptable (a ride along the coast on a sunny day, top-down in a rented convertible, a round of golf, or a session out on the community airfield with a radio controlled airplane…however, if the expense or challenge of the mechanism adds stress, please find another coping mechanism to use).  If we ask our Bonfire experts, we’re sure to find intense exercise and surfing among their top choices for coping mechanisms – not specifically for the coping aspect, but because they’re a main course of fun with a generous helping of stress-relief on the side.

We’re all different and there’s no sense in stressing about choosing coping mechanisms, so find your fun and you’ll discover a mechanism that works for you!

IGNITE YOUR DAY – Monday

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Dish of the Day:
Venison Marsala Don’t be intimidated by “venison” – use chicken (or pork) and you’ll still get rave reviews.  (Click here for additional recipes)

 

 

Movement of the Day:
Kettlebell Swings  This is a super simple, but great movement to do on a regular basis – like Overhead Squats, Kettlebell Swings help “undo” the bad effects of all the sitting we do (like me creating this post – dang!) (Click here for additional workouts)

 

Journal of the Day:
Quote of the Day: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” ~ Henry Ford
Essential Element It has long been recognized that journaling your life’s experiences is one of the most effective strategies to manage stress. [click to view Spark Insight -  Coping Mechanisms]
Journal: Writing down what’s bugging you – the stresses in your day, in your life – is often very helpful in diluting the stress those situations are causing. Write down three things that are grinding you down; now, if you can, outline a plan to: (a) delegate them; (b) manage them versus worry about them (meaning take action); (c) let them go altogether. (Click here for additional Journal work)

Week 1 Spark Insight: Coping Mechanisms

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Strategies for Successful Living

Critical Concept:  Coping Mechanisms
Fortunately, over thousands of generations, your body has developed incredible physiological coping mechanisms for adapting to stress. Unfortunately, this genetic adaptation didn’t involve adapting to chronic or long-term stress, with one exception - up until the last two hundred years or so, the only true chronic or long-term stress that man ever knew was famine.  Today, our seemingly never-ending stress is resulting in non-stop stress hormone production that is undermining our health in many ways..

The very same stress hormones that are released under the prolonged duress of famine or starvation course through our blood stream when we experience prolonged stress in our modern world.  These hormones change our global physiology and create a derangement of our metabolism.  In other words, chronic stress promotes fat storage, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, elevated blood fats, and compromised immune function (read obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer).  Specifically, a hormone called cortisol is released in times of stress.  Among other things, cortisol promotes the accumulation of the intra-abdominal or visceral fat called omentum – also known as “stress gut.”  The body’s creation of belly fat was originally intended for sustenance during the long, cold winter months when game was harder to come by.  Today, we face a veritable triple-whammy with drive-thru burger joints, a horrifically sedentary lifestyle, and an abundance of emotional or mental stress.

The take away for stress management:

  • FUEL: Eat Cleaner – lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and quality protein; no sugar, no grains, no processed vegetable oils
  • AIR: Move often – daily exercise to the point of exertion not only virtually erases the effects of stress, but will enable you to handle more stress before your body suffers from stress-induced breakdown.
  • SPARK: Go deep – get a handle on your sleep/rest schedule, your level of gratitude or thankfulness in your life, and feeding your mental/emotional self with ‘quiet time’, spiritual reading, and e-fasting (that’s deliberate periods no TV, computer, phone or internet)

Our modern ‘unnatural environment’ has led to an epidemic stress-derived chronic disease and the dreaded “stress-gut.”  Beyond aesthetics, omentum is considered one of the strongest predictors of heart disease and cancer. This fat actually increases our blood pressure by pressing up against our kidneys – influencing the hormones that regulate blood pressure.  Ironically, this same brilliant hormonal mechanism that helped man adapt and overcome the chronic stressors of yesterday is at the center of the number one killer of man today.

So what’s a human to do? Well people develop coping mechanisms.  It has long been recognized that journaling your life’s experiences is one of the most effective strategies to manage stress.  Each week you will engage your thoughts onto paper, answering thought-provoking and insightful questions to gain a greater understanding of how you think and the consequences of not only your thoughts but your reactions and how they affect all areas of your life, health and relationships.  The first week’s Spark Journaling Exercises pertain to the Seven Lifetime Value Accounts (please read this for a detailed explanation of this concept and process).

At the crux of almost everyone’s mental stress are the demands placed on our limited resources; namely our time, energy, focus and money.  The world seems to have an insatiable appetite for these things; everyday it seems that there are more demands and fewer resources.  In the economy of our lives, we must recognize the need for strategies that protect our limited resources.  If we are to be truly happy – and find peace of mind – we must strive to master managing these four assets.  For example, in the area of money or personal finances, creating a ‘Peace of Mind Account’is one of those coping strategies that lead to a desired outcome.

Well people don’t necessarily experience any less stress; they simply develop better strategies and coping mechanisms for dealing with it.  The Bonfire Health Program will empower you to choose healthier perspectives and responses to stress, as well as offering specific strategies and mechanisms for mitigating the effects of stress and reducing its occurrences.  The Spark Insights will equip you with best practices and vital behaviors that have been proven effective by everyday people in real world settings.

Life is full of surprises - get ready for them.