When people are asked what stressors they deal with, the most common answers are:
3. Family responsibilities
4. Personal health problems
The American Psychological Association found that "adults report that stress has a negative impact on their mental and physical health and a sizable number of adults do not feel they are doing enough to manage their stress."
Manage my stress!? Just that phrase can be stressful. You may be thinking, "I don't have time to manage my stress." But here's the thing, stress is like a smoldering fire within us. If we don't know how to manage those stressors, and/or don't take the time to do so, that fire will slowly consume our health.
It's impossible to extinguish all the stress in our lives. No one likes to hear the phrase, "just cut out stress in your life." It's not practical. A better approach is finding the way that works for you to manage your stress. One simple step in the right direction is exercise.
Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress; however, "Adults spend an average of 6.4 hours a day in sedentary activities — sitting or lying, without much movement — including time spent at a desk, watching TV or on a computer. 45% of adults report doing so for 6 to 12+ hours a day." (American Psychological Assoc.) We've got to get moving!
Don't worry if you're not an athlete or even if you're out of shape- you can still make a little exercise go a long way towards stress management.
The Mayo Clinic reports that exercise has some direct stress-busting effects, including:
It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner's high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
It's meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you'll often find that you've forgotten the day's irritations and concentrated only on your body's movements.
As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.
It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
For the month of May, set one goal to exercise more. Find things you enjoy doing- it doesn't have to be running. Goals written down are much more likely to be met. It can be simple like this:
Monday- Go on a walk after work for 20 minutes.
Tuesday- At home, do 10 sit ups, 10 push ups and 10 lunges across the room - repeat 3 times.
Wednesday- Go on a walk after work for 20 minutes
Thursday- Take 10 minutes to walk up and down stairs in my house
Friday- Go on a walk for 20 minutes somewhere new
Weekend- Find a Youtube Beginning Yoga video and follow along
After 30 days, take time to assess how you feel. Notice the positive changes you see and let that motivate you to keep going. Remember, it's better to smell like sweat than smoke!