Top 10 Stress Reduction Tips

1. Prioritize your life. This starts with a top-down approach.  First ask yourself what are the most important things/people in your life?  What do you value?  Now, what are your goals for your life?  How does this translate into your goals for this year and this month?  Now what do you need to do this week to support what you really want to accomplish in life?  Are you wasting any of your life energy on things that are not in line with your values and vision?  How can you resolve this?

2. Get organized. Develop a self-management system that works for you.  Do you need to cook all of your meals on Sunday for the week ahead?  Pack your family’s lunches the night before?  Do you need to colour code Tupperware or pack your gym bag the night before?  Staying organized will save you time looking for things and reduce your stress levels when you are busy because you will know exactly where everything is.

3. Eliminate the unnecessary. You don’t have to spend 2 hours in the gym every day to get results and you don’t need more money to be happier.  Instead, eliminate the unnecessary in your life by doing more with less.  For example, have an intense 30-45min workout that integrates strength training and cardio instead of a 2 hour lacklustre one that burns the same amount of calories.  Spend less money buying things to entertain your kids and spend more quality time with them.  Most kids are just as happy renting a free DVD from the public library and cuddling up on the couch with homemade popcorn as going to the expensive movie theatre!  Simplify your life – you don’t have to do a through z – instead, pick the activities that you really value and that add value to your life.

4. Do yoga. I started practicing yoga when I was 15 after finding an old yoga book of my parents in the attic and realized well before it became a mainstay of fitness culture that it had many benefits.  Yoga helps relax the mind and requires deep breathing, which shifts the autonomic nervous system into relaxation mode. If you don’t have much time to dedicate to yoga, starting each day with a sun salutation can be extremely beneficial.

5. Plan free time every week. I really think that everyone should have at least half a day every week where they are free to do something spontaneous.  This is not time to clean the house or do laundry.  Do something that you like, whether it is something creative like painting or something purely fun like going for a bike ride.  If that’s not your style, maybe you prefer soaking up a good book or listening to the radio (for entertaining stories that will have you in stitches I recommend Mornings with Maury on CBC).

6. Get more regular sleep. The amount of sleep we need is highly individual but generally when you are training hard you need at least 7-8 hours nightly.  Experts say that the sleep we get before midnight is the best quality so try to hit the lights by 11pm.  Set up a sleeping routine if you don’t have one already and avoid using your computer or watching TV the last hour before you retire.  The bright lights keep you awake longer and you often don’t realize how late it’s getting.  Try making some herbal tea, doing some light stretches, or reading a little to help you get sleepy.

7. Learn how to say no. You don’t have to do everything by yourself and you don’t have to do it perfectly.  High achievers often take on more than they can chew because they strive for excellence and have lofty goals.  There’s nothing wrong with this, but you have to know how much you can realistically take on without maxing out your life energy.  Focus on a few really important projects or activities – you will do a better quality job and probably find it much more rewarding.

8. Laugh! People who laugh often have much lower stress levels than those who are super serious all the time.  Rent a comedy, play a funny board game with friends & family, watch a comedian, or watch some entertaining YouTube videos (Human Tetris is one of my favs!).  Humor is especially important if you have a very serious job or a lot of stress at work.

9. Talk about it. If something is really bothering you, be assertive and let the person know how you feel.  Make sure you focus on behaviours and not the person themselves, which may end up making them defensive.  Think about how you can make the situation a win-win for both of you.  It’s not about be right or wrong, it’s about making things better!   Remember, conflict is a part of life and an opportunity to create something better.  If you can’t talk to the person, then maybe talking to a counselor or therapist can help you vent your feelings about the situation.

10. Exercise! Research has shown that exercise is very effective at releasing stress.  Stress not only affects us emotionally and mentally – it also has a big effect on our physiology too.  Heart rate and blood pressure increase due to increases in adrenaline, as well as hormones like cortisol which increases fat storage around our midsection.  This is our “fight or flight” response to stress which basically tells our body to respond physically to the perceived threat we are facing.  Exercise is the perfect way to get out this energy!  Do some sprints, an intense interval workout, or attend a hard spin or kickboxing class.  You will feel better when you leave!