You may have heard this before.
Be physically active.
Get the sleep you need.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Okay. So those aren’t secrets.
The real secret is something often overlooked. One important thing, when missed, can jeopardize everything else.
We need to manage stress.
Unbridled stress can have us reaching for smokes, drinks and Twinkies, lying awake at night, looking at our swelling belly, too exhausted to move a finger. Without meaningful coping strategies do you see how we can compromise every aspect of basic health?
Oddly enough, we aren’t always aware of how stressed we are because we often numb the bad feelings, as described, and/or we’re just used to being stressed. It’s the new normal. If we pay attention, physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms will alert us. Headaches, overwhelm, missed deadlines are all signs to notice.
There’s no denying that bad and unexpected things happen. That can be very stressful. But it’s not the event. It’s our interpretation of what happens that defines stress. It’s personal. Just look at the different people you know and how they perceive or handle stress and you know this is true.
A client referred to her recent health diagnosis as a bump in the road. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t stressed. She wasn’t in denial either. She just looked at it as a problem to solve. Attitude helps wonders.
It’s the unrelenting stressors like jobs or relationships that really wreak havoc with our health. We’re just not evolved to handle long-term, chronic stress without consequences. It eventually wears us down and makes us sick.
Keeping stress manageable enables us to put healthy practices in place. It works both ways. Sleep, exercise and a healthy diet do wonders for mind, body and spirit, enabling us to cope. It’s great to work at eating better, but if stress is driving your eating, your success hinges on dealing with your stress. Get to the source.
Give yourself credit for what you are doing well and keep making small changes, one after the other. Next week I’ll write about some healthy strategies for coping.