Welcome to December! DECEMBER. I can’t even believe I am writing this word. 2013 is almost upon us. When did THAT happen?!
For many, December is a stressful time of year. The approach of the holidays signals time spent with family, which for many is wonderful, and for others, a nightmare. Christmastime is also a time of increased spending, which in itself can cause great anxiety and stress.
But here is what the latest research is saying:
While the widespread perception has always been that stress induces a vast array of health problems — everything from anxiety to fatigue — researchers from Penn State University say that it’s actually the way people react to potentially stressful situations that determines whether they will suffer adverse health effects in the future.
“Our research shows that how you react to what happens in your life today predicts your chronic health conditions and 10 years in the future, independent of your current health and your future stress,” said David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State. “For example, if you have a lot of work to do today and you are really grumpy because of it, then you are more likely to suffer negative health consequences 10 years from now than someone who also has a lot of work to do today, but doesn’t let it bother her.” (Huffington Post)
Shocking, scary, interesting, but empowering. I always believe knowledge is power. There are endless studies to back up the claim that it is not the stressor itself that causes harm, but rather your perception of the stressor. How you perceive the stress. If traffic makes your blood boil, this is NOT good for your heart long term. But if you are more the chillaxed type, and traffic doesn’t both you, this won’t impact your health. Do you catch the difference?
As a success coach, I speak often about the effects of stress. And please trust me, the research ain’t pretty. You must do what you can to manage the stress in your life. Notice I didn’t say decrease it. Life happens, and we don’t always have control over what is thrown our way, but we do have a choice as to how we manage, compartmentalize and react to stressful events.
So now that we know that stress today, can effect you down the road, like 10 YEARS down the road, what can you do to decrease your stress level?
A few tips:
1. Become comfortable saying “no” to non-essential task requests from others. If spending more quality time with your family is a goal, for example, then taking time away from your loved ones to raise funds for a non-profit organization (while a very worthy undertaking) may need to wait until next year’s fundraising season. Something’s gotta give. Remember, saying “No” to someone else is saying “Yes” to yourself. Think before you say yes. A good exercise I’ve gotten good at, is I say, “Thank you, I will think about it and get back to you.” This way, if my answer really is a no, it will be a well thought-out no.
2. Learn to delegate effectively. Can a supervisee at work absorb some of the excess work? Can a nanny or babysitter be hired to spend time with the children during the workday? Are the children old enough that they can be tasked with cleaning their own rooms? You aren’t superwoman, my friends. You can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t. Learning how to ask for help is a process no doubt, but a very effective one for your sanity.
3. Commit to 5-30 minutes a day of meditation. To begin, start with 5 minutes. Read how to mediate for stress and health benefits. It has done wonders for me. Most people find 15 minutes optimal, but literally 5 minutes of meditation is beneficial. As for how often, it is said that meditation should be aimed for daily, like brushing your teeth. I don’t meditate daily, but I try to as often as I can, (about 3 times per week).
4. Exercise – walk, run, bike, cycle, hike, spin, yoga, pilates, strength train. Commit to being physically active at least 3 times a week, for one hour. If I only have a little bit of time to work out, I run for 30 minutes, do 20 push-ups, 20 dips, and five 2-minute plank intervals. That’s all. It takes me about 48-52 minutes. I feel like a million bucks.
5. Make romance a priority. Yes, you burn calories having sex, and yes, it is PHYSICALLY good for your serotonin levels. Reconnect with your partner. Call grandparents twice a year to take your children and have A STAYCATION with your partner- that means your vacation with your partner takes place at home! Make a yummy dinner by candlelight. Regroup. Sleep in. Pamper each other. Be good to each other. This costs nothing. It only costs the gas to deliver your kids to the neighbor’s, grandparents or friends. Do it. Trust me.
6. When guilt creeps up, shoe it away. You are a woman who deserves to feel healthy, fulfilled and happy. When we run from task to task, taking zero downtown to regroup, we burn out. This is a fact, it almost happened to me, and I went on national tv to talk about it two weeks ago. Find the happy medium between giving to those around you, and learning to be still within yourself. That means taking the necessary ‘me-time’ you need to regroup, and NOT FEELING GUILTY ABOUT IT. You are entitled to thrive in all your roles, so taking time for yourself is both necessary and vital to your overall health, and mental well-being.
Now that you know that the stress you bring upon yourself today, will effect your health in the future, you might do things differently. IN fact, you might do a complete 180. With the New Year approaching, I urge you to make your mental and physical well-being a priority. To slow down the pace, and reduce as much stress in your life as possible. Join me in this mindful approach as we take to life each day, trying our very best to thrive as women.
We are all busy, and therefore reducing exposure to stressors isn’t very possible. But figuring out how to better manage it is.
How are you managing the stress in your life?