Chronic stress takes a toll on your body. Here are some ways to give your body a break and help it prepare to face stress:
- Get some rest. Stress takes a toll on the body as you have seen. It can easily wear you down. Rest is essential. Without it, your body will tire of its attempts to cope with stress. Your mind becomes dull as well. Preparing for sleep is easy to take for granted. Television does not set the mood for restful sleep. It would be better to turn it off well before bedtime.
- Save it for later. Just before bed is not the ideal time to wrestle with your stress either. If something important related to your stress occurs to you just before sleep, write it down and think about it tomorrow. Choose relaxing activities such as reading or listening to soothing music instead of television to prepare for sleep.
- Eat well. Appetite often changes with stress as well. Maybe you feel a need to comfort yourself with food that tastes good but provides little nutrition. You don’t do yourself any favors with careless eating in times of stress. At the other extreme, you might lose interest in food when you are overwhelmed by stress. It is hard to depend on your appetite to tell you when you need food in these circumstances. Maintaining proper nutrition needs to be a conscious choice during stressful periods. You can also add this to your written plan.
- Exercise is also important. Adrenalin tenses the body when it is under stress. Exercise is a good way to release this tension. It also helps with digestion and rest.
- Learn to relax your muscles. Related to exercise but also akin to meditation is muscle relaxation. In 1938, the psychologist Carl Jacobson developed a series of exercises known as progressive muscle relaxation. You can find descriptions and recordings of how to do it on places like Amazon. YouTube is another possibility.
If you want to try it on your own, here’s how. Lie in a comfortable place on your back wearing loose clothing. You can take a few deep breaths to get you in the relaxing mood. Then tense the muscles throughout your body starting with your feet. Hold the tension in each muscle group for a few seconds and then release your muscles. Then notice the difference. Work your way up your body isolating all the various muscle groups from your feet up to your scalp.
- Honor your breath. I mentioned breathing earlier. Breathing out and in slowly and concentrating only on your breath while clearing your mind of everything else combines physical and spiritual approaches. It is a very simple form of meditation, but quite effective.You usually think of breathing in and then breathing out. To stay more focused, think of breathing out and then breathing in to help you concentrate on what you are doing. Breathing and muscle relaxation also serve as good preparations for sleep just before bedtime.
(Excerpt from Release Your Stress and Reclaim Your Life)