The Art of Slowing Down: Tips for Managing Stress

April 28, 2017

The Art of Slowing Down: Tips for Managing Stress

Between juggling work, family and other commitments, it’s easy to become stressed in the quagmire of our busy lives. It’s important to remember, though, that the stress response — a surge of hormones (including adrenaline and cortisol) released by your adrenal glands that increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies — can be a healthy, normal bodily process. How you manage this natural response, however, is the key to maintaining long-term mental and physical health in your life.
For Stress Awareness Month, E&S Ring Management wanted to offer up six successful coping strategies for managing stress. We are big believers in work-life balance, and we take great pride in creating an environment where our employees can achieve health, harmony, and happiness in their lives. Here are a few techniques for effectively managing stress:

1) Slow Down
During a stressful and hectic time, probably the last thing on your mind is slowing down. (Disclaimer: anyone who has ever actually calmed down when someone told you to “Calm down!” can skip to the next tip.)

The point is, slowing down is easier said than done — especially when you’re stressed. WebMD advises to take stock of your life and find small ways to chill out. For example, the site says, “Set your watch 5 to 10 minutes ahead. That way you’ll get places a little early and avoid the stress of being late. When you’re driving on the highway, switch to the slow lane so you can avoid road rage. Break down big jobs into smaller ones. For example, don’t try to answer all 100 emails if you don’t have to -- just answer a few of them.”

For other ideas on how to slow down, try these tips from Psychology Today.

2) Take a Breath
How many times have you felt your heart beating a little faster and the heat rising in your face at work, and you heard your inner voice say, “Stop. Take breath.” Pausing whatever you are doing in a stressful moment, and taking a few deep breaths can ease the pressure off of you almost immediately. In fact, breathing and controlling your breath is one of the easiest ways to improve mental and physical health, doctors and psychologists say. According to The Chopra Center, the benefits of simple, deep breathing exercises include:

Reduced anxiety and depression Lower/stabilized blood pressure Increased energy levels Muscle relaxation Decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm

States Sheila Patel, M.D.: “When you breathe deeply and slowly, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reverses the stress response in your body. Deep breathing stimulates the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system—the vagus nerve—slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and calming your body and mind.”

So, how should you breathe? WebMD suggests sitting in “a comfortable position with your hands in your lap and your feet on the floor. Or you can lie down. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a relaxing place. It can be on the beach, in a beautiful field of grass, or anywhere that gives you a peaceful feeling. Slowly take deep breaths in and out. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.”

As Patel notes, “breathing can have an immediate effect on diffusing emotional energy so there is less reactivity to our emotions.”

3) Get Moving
Remember that study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last year that found that sitting too much may increase the risk of dying prematurely, while replacing sitting time with just standing or moderate physical activity could counteract the effect? That should be enough to get us all off our desk chairs and into the streets walking!

Exercise has long been known to help relax your body and mind, and improve your mood. WebMD recommends a workout at least 3-5 times per week for 30 minutes. Taking brisk walks is a great way to burn off some calories and steam (they recommend two hours and 30 minutes). But you know what’s even better? “Add 75 minutes of a vigorous exercise like swimming laps, jogging, or other sports that gets your heart rate up,” the site suggests.

While at work, Leandro Rezende, a doctoral candidate at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine, suggests standing up, and going for a drink of water instead of keeping the water bottle at your desk. “Or just stand up every so often,” he adds. “Standing alone increases your energy expenditure.”

4) Eat Well at Lunch
If you’re having trouble managing your stress, it might be time to take a good, hard look at your diet. Are you skipping meals because you’re too busy at work? Are you grabbing a Happy Meal at McDonald’s because it’s quicker and more convenient than grabbing a salad at Whole Foods? As much as you might be tempted to skip lunch or hit the drive-thru (let’s face it, those Mickey Dee french fries are addictive!), your eating habits could be contributing to your stress levels. It’s also a catch-22 for those of us who are watching our weight, according to Prevention: the more our bodies create cortisol, the more it triggers an enzyme in our fat cells and contributes to us accumulating more fat (it converts cortisone to more cortisol).

That’s why your lunch meals should be full of vegetables (asparagus), fruit (avocado and blueberries), whole grains and lean protein for energy. And for healthy stress-reducing snacks, replace the potato chips with walnuts and cashews.

5) Take a Break and Make Time for the Things You Love
To reduce stress and give our mind time off, you need to incorporate real downtime into your daily routine. For some people, this might mean meditation, yoga or tai chi. For others, they might find relaxation by listening to their favorite music or spending time in nature. The key is to make time for the activities and things that you love most in life — a cornerstone of our corporate culture focuses on work-life balance at E&S Ring Management.

“If you’re a person who likes to set goals, this may be hard for you at first,” says WebMD. “But stick with it and you’ll look forward to these moments.”

6) Seek Out Simplicity
While WebMD advises you to identify your stress triggers — “Is it your job, your commute, your schoolwork?” — and work to eliminate them or reduce them in your life, there is something to be said for adding more of our happiness triggers too. What makes you happy? Is it taking a bike ride? Is it sitting by the ocean, enjoying a sunset? Is it having dinner with loved ones?

With the hectic pace of our lives, we all need to remember to seek out happiness in the simple things. The Danish are surprisingly good at this, hence their philosophy of hygge (pronounced HOO-gah) which has contributed to Denmark becoming one of the happiest populations in the world, World Happiness Report (Norway ranked No. 1 on the list this year, followed by Denmark).

Writes Judith Newman of the N.Y. Times Book Review, who covered “THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking: “Simplicity is at the heart of hygge. You need: atmosphere (thus the obsession with lighting), presence (the ability to be in the here and now and turn off the phone), pleasure, equality (“ ‘we’ over ‘me’ ”), gratitude, harmony, comfort, truce (the willingness to get together and not discuss controversial issues . . . imagine that), togetherness and shelter, which involve recognizing and celebrating ‘your tribe.’”

Can you turn off your computer or your cell phone, and carve out space in your life for your friends, your family, and the things that give you pleasure?

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