Saying the phrase “I’m so stressed out!” has become such a part of our everyday conversations that we often forget what it really means. The fact is, stress is killing us all, regardless of whether you’re a stay-at-home Mom, or are a CEO of a company. One of the struggles most of us face is feeling like our day is running fast, and we’re trying to catch up. You may feel like this with emails, trying to get the family out of the door in the morning, or just a general feeling that you’re overwhelmed. If you’re feeling like this lately, you’re not alone! Fortunately, there are a few habits you can start to build into your day that can help reduce the feeling of stress or anxiety created by feeling overwhelmed.
The Facts about Stress
First off, before I go into some of the new habits I recommend adopting, I want to lay out the importance of taking control of your day. The facts are that stress is slowly killing us. An article published this morning in the United Kingdom’s The Independent quotes Dr. Sharon Horesh, who explains that chronic stress can cause the following health issues:
- Hair loss
- Sexual dysfunction
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating
Not fun, is it? In order to better understand these issues, you need to understand that our body’s stress response releases two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. When our bodies release adrenaline for extended periods, it causes our heart rate and blood pressure to remain elevated. This is a perfect prescription for a heart attack or stroke. How about cortisol? When our bodies release cortisol, it sends a signal to our body that it needs to go into “defense mode,” which causes it to store belly fat. Have you heard of or suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? That can also be related to high levels of cortisol.
You’re probably thinking, “Thanks for stressing me out even more, Galel.” Don’t worry, because whenever I bring up a problem, I like to provide some solutions! The following are a few pieces of advice I give to my clients when they are struggling with maintaining life balance, and feel their day start to get away from them.
How to Take Control of Your Day
Prepare for Tomorrow: Your morning starts the night before. Before going to sleep, write down some of the to-do’s that you need to accomplish. It can be as simple as “Buy AA batteries,” or as big as “Talk to attorney about drafting up family trust.” Whatever it is that’s sitting in your head, get it out of your head! These little things add up in our short-term memory, which is one reason you wake up at 3:00am thinking, “Dammit, I forgot to buy milk today!”
Create a Bedtime Routine: Getting good sleep is vital to reduce stress. I learn from a lot of smart people, one is my friend Garrett. He does the same thing every single night, like clockwork. As part of his routine, he gets a light, low-carb, high-protein snack (good for keeping your blood-sugar levels from disturbing your sleep in the middle of the night), reads from a fictional book, and goes to sleep. The reason I’m a big fan of bedtime routines is because our brains recognize patterns. Smells, tastes, sights, and sounds all trigger feelings for us. This same way, when you create a bedtime routine, it tells your brain, “Alright, it’s time to go to sleep!” Creating a bedtime routine will help you improve your sleep which will help you to reduce stress.
Create a Morning Routine: Just like having a bedtime routine tells your brain that it’s time to go to sleep, having a routine in the morning gets you ready for the day. The concept behind this is to control your day before it takes control of you. If some of this sounds weird or cheesy to you, just try it. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re doing it, and I promise it’ll help.
Step One: Gratitude. Wake up, take a deep breath and give thanks for another day on Earth. Think, even for one minute about all that you’re grateful for. Did you wake up in a bed? Great, you didn’t wake up on the street. What about your spouse, children, friends or family? Can you see? Give thanks for your eyesight. Whatever it is you can be grateful for, ponder that for the first minute that you’re awake. You’d be shocked at how helpful gratitude can be to shift your mind’s perspective on life.
Step Two: Shock Your System. Drink some cold water. The reason I say cold water (I have been told that room temp is always best for you to drink) is to wake up you up. Your body is dehydrated from not consuming any fluids over the six-to-eight hours of sleep you just received. If you’re sleeping more than eight hours, you and I need to talk. Too much sleep is bad for you.
Step Three: Your Choice. This is where you can choose what you want to do, but I highly encourage you to not incorporate electronics into it. Don’t watch TV, check email, surf the Internet, or play games on the iPad. Use this time to do something meaningful for you. Maybe it’s exercise, prayer, meditation, yoga, reading a book, or writing in your journal. Whatever it is, make it YOUR routine. I could write an entire book on your morning routine, but I highly recommend reading The Miracle Morning (Amazon affiliate link). It’s changed the way I look at mornings. PS: Stop saying, “I’m not a morning person.” You’re programming your brain to think that way. I’ll write more on this topic in a future post.
Be Selfish: I know, we are taught that being selfish is a bad thing, but hear me out. In order for you to be your best, you have to take care of yourself. One of my mentors, Darren Hardy used a great analogy once where he explained the concept of selfishness and how it benefits others. When you fly on an airplane, what do the flight attendants tell you to do with the oxygen masks if the cabin pressure drops? They say, “Place yours on first before assisting children and others around you.” Why not help your kids with theirs before yours? You’ll likely pass out if you’re busy helping everyone! How effective will you be if you don’t take care of yourself? You’ve GOT to take care of yourself if you want to be an effective parent, spouse, employee, business owner, and friend. Find healthy ways to take care of yourself in order to be your best. No, alcohol and drugs are not healthy ways to take care of yourself. I enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, but it’s not one of my relaxation tools.
Give yourself some “me” time on a daily basis. You may choose to do one of these things daily, and others weekly based upon your budget:
- Drink your coffee or tea outside without your cell phone in hand
- Read a book in silence
- Go outside and get in the sun
- Get a massage
- Get a pedicure
- Call a friend
- Write a friend a letter
- Send someone a thank you note (Thanks, Jimmy Fallon!)
- Go to Target alone, but leave your wallet or purse in your car so you don’t spend $150.
I could go on with a bunch of suggestions, but you get the picture. Take time to yourself so that you can recharge your mind.
This article barely scratches the surface on stress management, but I want to get you thinking about how you manage your day. Life happens and we get curveballs thrown at us all the time. It’s impossible to take complete control over our day, and it’s unhealthy to think that we can. What we can do is to control those things that we actually can control which allow us to be more effective at handling the rest of the unpredictable events in life. My hope is that this gets you thinking about how you’re currently going about your day, and hope that it can help lead you to some healthy steps towards managing your mornings.
If you feel that your stress has become an obstacle in your performance, please feel free to contact me so that I can give you some tools to improve your quality of life!