Daily Non-Negotiables for Managing Stress
Stress has played a huge part in my life and my journey with wellness and it’s something that I still, and always plan to, put intentional effort into managing in my day to day life. A couple years ago, I found out I had sky-high cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and although I didn’t feel like I was stressed, I learnt about all of the ways I was putting stress on my body without even knowing it! Luckily, I also learnt many different ways in which I could incorporate habits into my daily routines that would help manage that stress and help alleviate the symptoms of stress I was experiencing.
Apart from the two big ones - diet & exercise - there are 3 daily non-negotiables I incorporate into my daily routines that help me manage stress and I’m going to share them with you!
3 Daily Non-Negotiables for Managing Stress
So before we get into it, let’s have a quick chat about stress.
For some reason, it’s become trendy to be stressed and anxious. We glorify it as if being stressed means we’re doing something right or that somehow we’re more successful than others. The truth is, stress is helpful to us in small amounts (see: fight or flight response) but the stress we experience day to day isn’t quirky OR cute and definitely shouldn’t be something we boats about or strive for.
When you’re stressed or anxious, your body goes into fight or flight mode and your cortisol levels spike which is great if you’re being chased by a tiger but odds are that’s not happening to you too often. On the other hand, the stress we most often experience is a constant stress over things like not being sure if we can pay our bills or if we’re going to make our deadlines.
Have you ever noticed that you always end up catching a cold or breaking out in the middle of a stressful time like exam season or right before a big interview? This happens because when you’re stressed your immune system is suppressed. Instead of your immune system fighting off nasty germs, its main concern is addressing your high cortisol and all the other issues that happen as a result.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times! Meditating can make a world of a difference when it comes to managing and reducing stress in your life.
Did you know meditating has actually been proven to lower cortisol levels?
This is incredibly important for someone dealing with hormonal imbalances, especially high cortisol. When your cortisol is out of whack it’s likely that one or more of your other hormones is right there behind it so it’s in the best interest of all of your hormones to make sure you’re keeping your cortisol in check.
My favourite way to meditate is called Transcendental meditation. If you’ve never heard of this type of meditation the idea behind it is to get quiet and observe your thoughts passing by rather than focusing on completely clearing your mind of thoughts and thinking of nothing.
This way of meditating resonates so strongly with me, not only because I’ve felt how amazingly it works but also because meditation should be effortless, you shouldn’t be fighting with your own thoughts to get to a calm place – that’s just silly!
Transcendental meditation was explained to me as a way for your brain to digest your thoughts – in the same way your stomach digests your food.
If you think about it, you’re not eating every moment of the day (tbh some days I am but that’s irrelevant) but instead you have periods of time in between where your body gets to do its thing and digest your food. On the other hand, your brain never has a chance to stop, ESPECIALLY these days with our mile long to-do lists and endless notifications.
Meditating allows your brain to have the space and quiet to digest all of your thoughts of the day. It’s actually pretty wild what this brain digest time can bring up!
The Intentional To-Do List
I’m so guilty of making a crazy long to-do list which is ballsy of me since I have the focus of a squirrel, but with the nature of my job, my workload basically is just a long to-do list without any due dates or required time slots.
This habit actually came about in my effort to expand my focus and that’s to decide on a task before you even sit down to start working so rather than staring blankly at a list of 30 items, you know exactly what you’re going to work on.
Creating a more intentional to-do list every day has not only improved my focus, but has helped me manage stress day to day. Whenever I sit down and open my laptop, I know exactly what I’m about to do which leaves me little to no room to stress over the long list of things I need to do.
Along with meditation, journaling was always something I had heard people talk about or had been recommended to do but never did because for me it never seemed helpful. How could writing out what I was already thinking help me at all? I totally didn’t get it.
When I seriously gave journaling a try, I struggled with the lack of structure and guidelines the practice came with. I had journaled when I was a kid but at its best it looked like me confessing my love for the Jonas Brothers. Very emotionally therapeutic..
I got through the initial fear of journaling by bringing some of my own structure to the practice. I knew gratitude journals were a thing so I would start off each entry by listing off things I was grateful for - easy! I would then move into how I was feeling for the day. I would finish off my entry by writing out some affirmations and a couple lines referencing my gratitude for the things I did not yet have but that I was working to manifest. These three talking points provided me with enough guidance to get into my feelings and address anything I felt needed to be addressed.
Because I’ve implemented this practice in my day to day life, I feel much more comfortable turning to writing when I feel any particular emotion that I feel I need to has out.
Remember that stress management is going to look different for everyone but no one habit or practice should make you feel even more stressed. Some practices might feel a bit uncomfortable at first but you’ll be able to tell whether it’s resistance out of fear or inexperience or if it’s truly not for you.