8 great ideas for decreasing stress

Photo credit: Josh Neufeld

While writing these lines, I realized I had not published a blog since December last year. And, it is already March. The reasons are due to my studies for my nutrition coach certification, a holiday beach trip and three lectures and workshops I did in the last few weeks, as well as a few other minor excuses.

I realized that the workshop preparations left me extremely stressed, as I am also working full time as a fitness professional.  In my day job, I deal with people who are under way more pressure than I. I constantly try to find realistic ways to help them decrease their stress levels. Stress can have a bunch of different origins: family, a death of someone you care about, moving house, changing jobs, launching a startup, relationship problems, pressure from work or school, recent retirement, financial problems, frequent traveling, substance abuse issues, addictions, sports competition, etc.

Some things are outside of our control, although we are in charge.  However, we can control how we react to a particular situation, and also how we design our day. We live in a society that promotes over-scheduling and being busy. Ensuring balance can be tough.

Here are my eight favorite ideas for decreasing stress based on my experience and my client observations. These tips are easy and can be used by the busy executive right through to the single parent.

1. Take up an enjoyable hobby (at least one day a week). Preferably an outdoor activity. To get some sunlight and fresh air. The activity could be anything from playing golf, urban hiking, martial arts to playing soccer, etc. You will not only get some time to focus on something that brings you joy, but you will also be around people whose company you enjoy. Should you need to find friends to participate in a particular hobby, check your local Meetup group or start a group of your own.

2. Meditate for a few minutes every day. That can be quick. Only a few minutes (10 or 15) per day. Preferably in the morning as part of a morning routine. I have been doing approximately 10minutes every morning for more than a year. In all honesty, it was the hardest exercise to get started. For help and guidance, I recommend using either Headspace or Calm.

3. Prioritize sleep. Sleep might be the single most effective stress reliever in your toolbox. Being well-rested helps you tremendously with stressful situations and recovery. Click here for a handful of tips to sleep better.

4. Practice being alone. Turn off your phone and do something you enjoy. Go to a movie in the cinema. Watch the latest episodes of your favorite series on Netflix. Play the most recent version of your favorite video game. Read a good book or listen to your favorite music. You are with yourself always and forever. The more we learn to enjoy our company, the better.

If you are addicted to busyness and feel anxious and guilty when you are not working, I can highly recommend to listen to this video. Life is too short to be busy!

5. Get a regular massage. Once per week or on a preferred schedule. In a place like Thailand, it is very simple to get an affordable Thai massage. I understand that in other countries a therapeutic massage might not be readily available or accessible. Massages, such as a Thai massage has many benefits; mental well-being, stretching, decreased cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and pain relief. Check out this or this study to scientifically prove some of the benefits of a Thai massage.

6. Exercise to improve your strength and conditioning. Physically and mentally. A stronger body and mind helps you deal much better with stressful situations. Fitness also keeps you healthy, boost your metabolism, improves your immune system and uncountable other benefits.

There is no better feeling than deadlifting two times your bodyweight for reps on a Monday. Physical activity will set you up for a productive and successful week ahead.

8. And last but not least: nutrition. Make sure to have a balanced, healthy and sustainable diet. Nourish your body with mostly non-processed whole foods. Eat lots of colorful veggies and fruits. Limit alcohol consumption. With proper fuel your body and brain can perform better, you get less sick, have more energy and consequential you will be able to deal with stress better.

I am sure these tips are realistic to implement in a very busy schedule. Try starting a time diary should you find it a bit difficult to incorporate these tips into your daily routine. Capture all your activities in 30-minute increments. It does not have to be super detailed; just to get a general idea. The goal is simply to show how you spend your time. Then look for patterns and consider what to adjust. Work with a coach to explore options for planning and preparing more effectively.

Let me know your thoughts and experiences about how you decrease your stressful situations in the comments below or a message and share this post with people you know, who will benefit from these ideas. Thank you

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