Stress is part of everyday life. There is no way around it. You’re late for work. You have an unexpected bill. The project deadline has been moved up. All these things can make you feel stressed. By themselves, they are short-term issues that will resolve quickly. But there is another type of stress that is ongoing and potentially dangerous to your health. This type of stress is what Dr. Roberta Lee calls “Superstress”.
In her book “The Superstress Solution”, Dr. Lee defines superstress as a type of stress American’s tend to have as part of our busy, technology-driven lifestyle. Stress has become such a common part of American life that we do not always recognize when we are stressed. People say “I’m busy”, “I have a lot of to do”, or “I’m exhausted. They don’t however, call what they are feeling “stress.”
Recognize if you are experiencing too much stress.
When was the last time you slept eight hours? How much caffeine do you need to get through the day? Are you craving sugar or carbohydrates? When was the last time you felt completely relaxed? Answering these questions honestly can give you some insight as to how your body is dealing with stress.
Try these steps to help manage the stress response
- Stop and Breathe – I know this sounds simple, but when we are stressed we tend to take shallow breaths. Shallow breathing means less oxygen to the brain. Less oxygen to the brain means we don’t think as clearly. When we don’t think clearly, it takes longer to do the tasks we need to do. See how we can easily spiral into a state of stress-induced incompetence? So stop and breathe. Stop everything you are doing and take ten slow deep breaths. Make sure your belly expands and contracts with each inhale and exhale. Another great breathing tool to help combat stress is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Dr. Weil explains how to do it here.
- Skip the fast food – Americans are addicted to fast food and it is negatively impacting our health in many ways. Fast food is cheap and convenient. However, it is also void of most nutrients our bodies need, especially if we are stressed. Start packing your own lunch with fresh whole food such as vegetables and lean protein. Skip the soda and opt for purified water instead.
- Try massage – Often, I hear clients tell me they believe massage is a self-indulgent luxury that should be reserved for vacations and day spas. I encourage them, and you, to think of massage as an important part of an overall wellness plan. Massage does so much more than relax sore muscles. It can help eliminate toxins from the body and lower the body’s response to stress. When we are in a high state of stress for extended periods of time, the body does not rest and repair itself as it otherwise would. Massage can help create a state of relaxation.
- Move – For some people the best way to relax and de-stress is by participating in high-impact, high-intensity exercise. The intense movement allows them to rid themselves of built-up frustrations from the day. At the end of the exercise time, they feel a sense of relaxation and happiness. For others, even the thought of high-intensity exercise is stress inducing. For them, the best way to relax and let go of built- up stress is with a brisk walk or gentle yoga class. So which type of movement is best? The one that works for you.
Tired of being on the superstress rollercoaster? Try these four steps. Let me know how they work for you at firstname.lastname@example.org.