Women's Health

Eight-step stress prevention plan

Life can be intense and the past six months have been extraordinarily troubling on many levels. Whether it's the pandemic itself or the tax consequences of illness, quarantine, financial uncertainty or isolation, it is fair to say that people are hella exhausted. But be brave: you can learn to manage your stress with a few practical behavior changes and some smart coping strategies.

Learn how to manage your stress with just a few practical behavior changes.

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8-step stress prevention plan

People are naturally wired to deal with local stress, such as the pounding fight or flight instinct that you feel when exposed to danger. However, our biology is not equipped to withstand repeated exposure to acute stressors, and recurring hormone fluctuations such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline can ultimately attack and deregulate cell balance. With a domino effect, other systems break down, causing things like weight gain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

Your best bet is preventing stress from occurring in the first place, and this checklist from Michael Mantell, Ph.D., Behavioral Science Advisor and Transformation Coach, can get you on the preventive path.

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  1. Exercise and be active every day – but don't overdo it. Too much activity and too little rest can cause inflammation, which can lead to a variety of serious health problems.
  2. Reduce the coffee. Caffeine can increase anxiety, disrupt sleep, and disrupt digestion. None of these are helpful in achieving calm and balance.
  3. As Michael Pollan says: Eat food (not too much), mostly plants. The phytochemicals contained in plants help to balance your mood by supporting the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
  4. Tame your mind Events don't burden you. Your thoughts about these events weigh on you. Use meditation to accept the present and watch your thoughts without judgment.
  5. Really breathe. Deep abdominal breathing connects the mind and body, slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles and lowers the blood pressure.
  6. Implement stress-free thinking. Think about how you think about your doom and gloom scenarios, and then challenge them. Do you have evidence that this will occur? Then shift your thinking from fear to possibility, because even if the worst happens, you may not like it, but you will be able to endure it.
  7. Practice compassion. Compassionate people recognize that imperfection and suffering are common, common human conditions. Grant yourself grace and stop worrying about what you cannot control.
  8. Don't just survive – thrive. Think of each setback as a setup for a stronger comeback. This helps you develop resilience, the psychological mechanism that keeps people going.

Group of young adults smiling outdoors

Michael Mantell, Ph.D., created the S.M.I.L.E. Model of Happiness to help people become happier and healthier in challenging times.

Now S.M.I.L.E.

Now that you've got your stress relieved proactively, it is time to fuel happiness with Mantell's strategy of making you smile.

  • Enjoy: We could all bear to slow down a little and literally smell the roses. Stay where you are and carefully focus on the details of your activities.
  • Me: Time for yourself allows you to relax, reboot your brain, improve your focus, and nurture your relationships. Even the little things you do during the day add up: close your office door to eliminate distractions, wake up a little earlier to work out, or leave your phone in the car when you're with friends.
  • To interact: Personal relationships are an integral part of human happiness, and spending time with others, expressing kindness and doing good deeds reduces stress and promotes connection. However, not all interactions are positive. So avoid the ones who complain to you.
  • Listen: Using your ears can increase your happiness quotient. Listen to the chirping of birds or your grandchildren playing or the music that promotes wellbeing and lifts your spirits.
  • Empathize: When you put yourself in someone else's shoes, you can actually put one leg up. Build empathy for others by admitting your own vulnerability and finding common ground with others around you.
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