5 Easy Ways to Boost Stress Tolerance
Hey there! You know what it feels like to be stressed right? Of course you do! But what if I told you that on top of the regular stresses involved in your daily life, you may be engaging in some unhealthy habits which actually lower your ability to handle stress? Naturally, I've got you covered with 5 proven strategies to boost your stress tolerance.
The number one way to boost your stress tolerance is to get a good night's #sleep. There's a whole bunch of glorious things that happen in your body while you sleep (like producing melatonin, allowing your muscles to repair themselves after the previous day's activities and to prepare them for tomorrow, and consolidating learning from the day's experiences, and so much more).
If you do not take your sleep seriously, then I'm afraid your health will suffer--not just that you'll feel less capable of being energetic, but your mental health will suffer too. Without good sleep, you can look forward to feeling lethargic, foggy, slow, sore, irritable...you get the idea.
Researchers have long since connected the benefits of a good night's sleep with increasing your tolerance for stress. The more sleep you get the larger your window for stress tolerance gets.
Here's a few tips for getting a better night's sleep:
Spend 30 minutes or more before you finally lay your head to bed, where you do NOT engage with anything stressful. This is actually harder than it seems for many people until they get used to this routine.
Do not watch TV or any screen for at least 30 minutes before bed. This is because the blue hue in the screen's pixels are interpreted by the brain as being sunlight, and the brain begins to produce cortisol instead of melatonin (that means it begins waking up instead of going to sleep). If you absolutely MUST watch something while you fall asleep, then I recommend using "night mode" on your device (removes the blue hue).
A few hours before bed, begin to change the lighting in your home to softer or dimmer lighting. Same as the blue hue issue, bright lights shock the eyes a bit and triggers your brain to send a signal to your adrenal glands to produce cortisol to begin awakening.
Try light stretching, yoga, or meditating before climbing under the covers. Stretching actually produces dopamine and is a similar response (in the brain) as to what happens during sexual intercourse. Meditating as well as yoga can be relaxing for many people, and you may prepare yourself for sleeping more quickly and more deeply.
I know...I know...#exercise is always recommended to improve mental health and improve your ability to handle stress, and there's a reason it's always recommended: it works...most of the time. But there's two sides to every coin though right?
Right. On one hand, exercise provides incredible boosts of energy if you consistently raise your heart rate to a safe level, and then replenish your body with the appropriate kinds of nutrients post-workout (amino acids, proteins, etc.). The more this habit is engaged with, the more able your body is to repeat the action. While I'm certainly not a personal trainer myself, I do find that drastically changing my exercise routine has a pronounced effect on my stress levels and mental health functioning. If I consistently exercise (say 3 to 5 times a week) and then suddenly stop for a prolonged period of time (no exercise the next week), I feel much more sluggish and tired.
For those who suffer from trauma symptoms like panic and high anxiety, exercise is actually a great way to demonstrate to the brain that you are "not in danger," "strong," and "in-control." During high stress, we shift into fight/flight/freeze mode, and doing something as simple as running on the spot indicates to your brain that you are "escaping the danger." Trauma is a tricky issue because, even if your "logical mind" knows that you are not actually in danger, there may be another aspect of your emotional self that feels like you might be--going for a run or hitting a punching bag is highly recommended in these situations. (Also, if you have an old printer that you can safety demo, that is just good old fashioned fun...I hate printers sometimes...)
OK. You were waiting for that "other side of the coin" right? Here it is: if you are suffering from high stress and especially if you are one or those people who experience prolonged stress (who isn't these days...am I right?), you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Working with a nutritionist over the previous summer, my partner and I discovered that we were both experiencing adrenal fatigue--supported by hormonal saliva tests (being honest with you, I wasn't engaging in as much self-care as I should have been)! The nutritionist suggested that we actually cease exercising for a couple of months while we focus upon eating and sleeping better. After we got our diet in check and sleep back on schedule, exercise was incorporated back into the fold.
Now, since I'm also not a nutritionist nor a medical expert, I cannot recommend that you cease exercising. So this isn't an excuse to skip the gym! One of my colleagues actually turned down her nutritionist because she couldn't imagine her life without exercise! There's no right or wrong way to exercise, so even light walking can help.
Eating a balanced #diet throughout the day is absolutely recommended to maintain your ability to tolerate stress. While this suggestion isn't quite a "booster" for stress, it certainly can help to avoid the dreaded 3:00 pm crash!
Because your body's blood sugar level is its natural method of maintaining energy, making sure that you get enough fats, protein, and carbs (emphasis on "enough" meaning...not too much) is recommended to maintain your body's ability to face stress as it comes. If you are already low on energy, and then more stress comes your way, it's going to be a lot worse than if you have enough natural energy stored up and ready to be consumed to face the challenge. Think "prevention" instead of "relief."
I always make sure that I have some form of protein in my office bag or desk to ensure that I have my protein between 2:00 and 3:00 pm, and I usually carry coconut oil in my office bag to add to my coffee to make sure I have my fat to balance my sugar levels. Yes, I still drink coffee...can you imagine stopping coffee?? NO way!
4. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Too much #alcohol can negatively impact the body's ability to withstand stress the following day. Of course, if you've ever had a #hangover, then you know what I'm talking about. Well, the next day, your body is struggling to recover its electrolytes and depleted neurotransmitters that it exhausted while you were out escaping yesterday's stress.
I'm not telling you never to drink again, but maybe just a regular glass or two of wine instead of a couple of double gin and tonics eh? Naturally, the benefits of sharing a bottle of wine with some close friends, adds stress-relief in the form of social cohesion and belonging--powerful aids in boosting your ability to tolerate stress.
Organization is so important for so many reasons. If you maintain your work space, home space, and personal schedule in an organized manner, your can expect a significant boost in your ability to tolerate stress.
When we are aware of "what's coming" we can prepare psychologically for it. If we're so busy and buried under a sea of clutter, when a new stressor comes our way, we are likely to miss it, or simply become overwhelmed.
Let's break organization down into the above-mentioned three categories:
Work space organization means a few things. First, you'll want to maintain a clean and compartmentalized space (just as the woman in the photo above is displaying). Her mind is much more likely to be focused when she is not seeing a bunch of clutter out of the corner of her eye. Second, many people report feeling more creative when there's physical space opened up--this promotes psychological expression. Do these two things effectively (and assuming you actually like where and for whom you work) you're likely to say #ilovemyjob just as this woman in the picture apparently loves her job.
Home Space organization is critical too. If you leave your home space cluttered and unorganized, then a.) you are spending your time in relative chaos and are likely to feel stressed in that environment, and b.) when you return from work, you will be challenged to effectively "leave work at work" as your nervous system will be responding to the work from stress with the stress from home.
Personal schedule organization is listed last here, because it applies to both home and work. When consciously take the time to spread your daily tasks into appropriate chunks, it is much easier to maintain motivation for completing tasks, and it is far more likely that you will not become overwhelmed. If you are working on a huge task, break it down into little "chunks" so that your time periods are effectively used. This idea is also called #chunking.
What should be occurring during all of these areas in your life, is the necessity for taking breaks. I'm not talking about siestas every 15 minutes, but something that works for your body. For example, every hour of work, take a two or three minute break to get a glass of water or go for a few steps to stretch your legs. Improving blood flow, hydration, and modifying what your eyes are looking at, are all great ways to improve your stress tolerance because your body functions better.
So if your boss asks you why you aren't at your desk working right now, say that you are processing information to improve your work-efficiency!
I look forward to you boosting your stress tolerance with these 5 Easy Tips to Boost Stress Tolerance. Feel free to drop me a line if you're interested in chatting, want to leave a comment, or would like a free consultation. I'm happy to connect!
With care and respect,
Robert A. Grigore, MCP, RCC #12316
Certified EMDR Therapist
Owner & Psychotherapist
470 Granville St.