Each of us strives to be the best version of ourselves: to do our best at work, to be the best individual to others, and to lead the lives we want to live. But, throw in a flat tire, expedited deadline, call-off from work, or unexpected bill, and you can feel your neck tensing up.
Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Some days, there’s more than we’re used to, while other days, we’re on the beach with a mojito. Achieving our goals amid stress is simple: deal with it. Don’t ignore it by seeking distractions, but actually manage the stress you experience.
Here are 5 tips to help manage this necessary nag to keep you at your best:
1. Invest in yourself.
If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you expect to be capable of caring for others? Most individuals put their family, patients, and friends above themselves, but they take it a bit too far. Before long, they’re so burnt out they’re unable to perform basic tasks to help those they love.
Of course, there are sacrifices to make, but don’t lose sight of your own basic needs for too long. Ensuring you’re equipped to be at your best will allow you to be your best for those you care about the most.
2. If you can’t be on time, be early.
I want you to envision 2 different scenarios:
Scenario 1: Your commute to work is exactly 30 minutes, on average. You leave 45 minutes before you need to be there, just in case you hit traffic, there’s a wreck, you need to get gas, or you decide to grab lunch on the way.
Scenario 2: Your commute to work is exactly 30 minutes, on average. You leave 28 minutes before you need to be there, figuring you can ride in the fast lane and swiftly pull in just as the clock turns to :00 for when your shift starts. That was the plan—except you hit every red light, there are tractor-trailers in both lanes going under the speed limit, your gas gauge flashes “empty” midway there, annnnnnd you don’t quite make it on time as planned.
How do you think your shift at work will start off in Scenario 2? Starting with a “pre-stressed” state of mind will actually make you overstress anything that comes up as the day unwinds, fueling the raging inferno of stress you walked in the door pre-lit with gasoline.
Bottom line: Don’t be the cause of your own stress! Do yourself a favor and expect the unexpected: give yourself some extra time to make it to work, a meeting, or any timed event.
I’ve got the science (and experience) to prove this works. You don’t have to dedicate 5 hours a day to see the benefits in stress reduction—just 10 minutes a day will payoff. The key is consistency in doing this every day. You must make this a habit—not just when you’ve had a bad day at work. It’s the daily practice that works to keep you grounded and in balance.
4. Fuel the furnace.
If you make a bridge out of toothpicks, what’s going to happen when the cargo (stress) gets too much? Just like your diet, if you fuel yourself with crap, you will likely feel like crap—mentally and physically.
5. Breath in and out, and in and out.
This may sound as basic as a pumpkin spice latte, but again, I look to science. Taking a moment to consciously breath long, deep breaths activates your parasympathetic nervous system. When this system is activated, it shuts down its counterpart, the sympathetic nervous system—the one that activates the “fight or flight” response. You may also have heard it referred to as the stress response—ah, it all makes sense now!
The best method is known as diaphragmatic breathing—when inhaling, focus on expanding your abdomen rather than your chest (breathe from the belly). The result? Feeling relaxed, calm, and less stressed!
Use these tricks in your daily practice and watch your threshold to peace prosper!
Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT, NAMS-CNC
Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT, NAMS CCN is an author, licensed pharmacist, and nutrition consultant. He is the founder of The Fit Pharmacist movement and host of The Fit Pharmacist Healthcare Podcast. In addition, he is the owner and a nutrition consultant at The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North in Pennsylvania.