5 Ways Your Life Might Be Out of Balance and Stressing You Out

July 21, 2009 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Are you stressed and irritable?  Reset your mood with simple changes to your daily routines and habits.

Stress can present itself in many forms in our lives.  For me a clear indicator that I am stressed is when I begin to snap at the kids for minor infractions.  I consider myself to have a pretty laid back parenting style, so when I begin to get worked up over small spills, lost shoes, and squabbles over toys I know it’s time to take a look at what is going on.  Irritability is the big red flag for me.  Some other signs of stress include: feeling frazzled, overwhelmed and frustrated, difficulty concentrating, negative thinking, mood swings, lack of energy, and difficulty making decisions.  Stress also manifests itself physically in such things as aches and pains.

Stress has many sources.  Certainly we are all familiar with anxiety over work, worry about family, or relationship problems.  However, much of stress comes from simple habits and routines in our everyday lives.  In the short run that bag of chips or late night TV show may feel like a stress reliever.  Unfortunately, in the long run, these things may actually cause additional stress.  Ask yourself these questions about your life and your routines to see if they are out of balance and causing you stress.

1.      SLEEP:  Are you getting balanced sleep?  Not too much, not too little?  Of course in a busy world with myriad demands from work and family this may seem like a loaded question, but most people need somewhere around 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep a night.  Many people believe they can function on 6 hours of sleep, but in reality, they cannot.  Jaime Boero, M.D., Ph.D., a sleep specialist at Marshfield Clinic Neurosciences, says “when you don’t get enough sleep you are more easily distracted, and it’s harder to concentrate on a task.”  “You’re more irritable and less flexible.”  Dr. Boero also has found that lack of sleep plays a part in weight gain. “People use food to keep themselves awake.”   “Appetite is regulated by sleep as well.”

2.      EXERCISE:  Are you getting daily exercise?  We’ve all heard about endorphins, the neurotransmitters produced in the brain and released during exercise.  Endorphins have a powerful effect on the body, both reducing pain and inducing feelings of euphoria.  In clinical studies, physical activity and exercise have been found to alleviate some symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression. The evidence also suggests that physical activity and exercise might improve self-image, social skills, and cognitive functioning; reduce the symptoms of anxiety and alter aspects of Type A behavior and physiological response to stressors.  Chris Freytag elaborates on the stress busting effects of exercise in her blog. 

3.      EATING:  Are you eating a balanced, healthy diet?  Do you engage in many of the following behaviors:  skipping meals, mindless munching, forgetting water, eating fast foods, or going on crash diets?  Does your diet contain high quantities of coffee or caffeine and fried foods?  Do you use too much alcohol?

Certain foods that contain caffeine, sugar, salt and saturated fat in high quantities act as a direct cause of stress.  Stress, in turn, can lead to further unhealthy eating.  In order to better balance your eating, you may consider increasing whole grains and green, yellow and orange vegetables in your diet.  Health professionals also recommend eating breakfast, having green or black tea instead of coffee, sparkling water instead of soda, packing your own lunch and snacks, no caffeine after 2pm, and stocking your home with healthy foods.

4.      TREAT ILLNESS AND PHYSICAL PAIN:  Do you have any physical illnesses or pains that you are not taking care of?  Do you have high cholesterol?  Back pain?  Or any of a host of physical problems?  Any physical pain or worries about physical problems make you more vulnerable to stress.

 5.      COMPETENCE:  Do you do something every day that makes you feel competent and in control?  The day to day activities of raising a family and taking care of a home can give a sense of competence.  But for many, it is important to do something else that gives a feeling of accomplishment.

So if you notice you are stressed and irritable lately, take a look at your daily life and routines.  Making a few simple changes can reduce your frazzled feelings and make you better able to enjoy the good things and handle the challenges in your life.

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Entry filed under: Stress Reduction Techniques, Uncategorized.

What Is Mindfulness? Mindful Breathing- counting your breath

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