Ah, the Fall – that beautiful time of year when the weather gets cold enough for jeans and a sweater, leaves begin to turn a palette of brilliant colors, and suddenly, we are racked with work, responsibility and an ever growing to-do list. Enter STRESS, that evil creature who creeps up on you like an animal of prey, paws and claws ready to squeeze you tight until your eyes are bulging. Suddenly, without warning, your short fuse has burned out and you’re snapping at the helpless Starbucks barista for taking too damn long with your half-caf pumpkin soy latte.
Stress is totally normal, we all experience it in every day life. The problem with stress is when it becomes chronic. Our bodies naturally respond to stress with a “fight or flight” response – adrenal glands release hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and corticosterone which give us an energy boost and strength to fight or flee. This makes sense when you are staring down a black bear, not so much when your boss is enforcing a nearly impossible deadline. When chronic stress is present, so are the stress hormones, wrecking havoc on digestion – increasing appetite and weight gain, nervous system – causing anxiety and depression, and immune system – leading to sickness, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer.
So, how do you take a time-out and manage your stress when there is no time to take? Here are a few suggestions to help you cope that take no time at all.
1. Take a deep breath. In fact, take 3.
Behold, the power of oxygen. When we get stressed, our breath gets shallow and our heart rate increases. The simple act of breathing deeply is like hitting the reset button on our psyches. Wherever you are, when you feel that tight grip of stress come on, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Breath in through your nose, fill your lungs completely, and slowly exhale. Repeat two more times and slowly open your eyes. You’ll feel much better and it only takes 20 seconds.
2. Try adding an anti-stress supplement to your daily vitamin routine.
Adaptogens are herbal supplements used for centuries in Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic and Native American medicine to improve adrenal health. Used regularly, they help reduce anxiety and fight fatigue by regulating cortisol levels and enabling the body to utilize oxygen more efficiently. Panax Ginseng, also referred to as Asian Ginseng, will give you an energy boost and is best used for occasional bouts of stress, while Holy Basil, is best used to combat the effects of accumulated stress over a long period of time. Rhodiola Rosea is the best for regulating cortisol levels – lowering them when they are too high and increasing them when they are too low. It’s a super herb that promotes heart health, brain function and fights depression and fatigue.
3. Go to your happy place.
Remember the time when you were carelessly happy, freely yourself, and full of love? Yeah, go to that place. Close your eyes and try to recall any and all details – time of day, temperature, who was there, what you did. See yourself surrounded by people you love and who love you. Don’t have a happy place? Damn, that super sucks – get outside immediately and lay on your back in the sun! Or, start counting your blessings. Literally. Focus your attention for a minute on what you are most grateful for – your health, your family, your friends, your home, your full head of hair – big and small, make a mental gratitude list.
Ask for help. If there is simply too much to do in a day, call on a friend or family member for help. Ask another parent to pick up the kids, teach the kids to put their dishes into the dishwasher, hire a housekeeper, get take-out, whatever it takes. If there are pressing tasks that you simply don’t have time for, find a solution and get someone to pitch in wherever they can. In my experience, people are happy to help if you ask them. Just make sure to return the favor when you come up for air.
5. Skip the small stuff
Some things just don’t need to be done when you are under pressure – you taking care of yourself or clearing your plate to make more time for self-care is more important than making sure the beds are all made and the dust has been whipped into submission. Make a list, if there is something that is not urgently pressing, skip it.
Finally, don’t let stress and to-dos prevent you from enjoying the bounty of the fall season – the farmer’s markets are exploding with produce, apple cider and pumpkins abound, and the weather just begs for a stroll through the park. Find time whenever and wherever you can. The best cure for stress is to get out in nature, breathe in deep, and let it all go.
And if you do find yourself getting sick this season, check out my post on staying healthy during the fall.