By Ashley Lemke
Stress is an inevitable part of being alive. Your job, relationships, and responsibilities will only continue to demand more of you as time goes on, and you need to be prepared. Stress is not going to go away anytime soon, and the only logical solution is to build your resilience to face it more successfully.
You can learn to train your body to recover from stress more quickly and efficiently. There are many small, strategic things you can begin to do, or not do, in your everyday routine that can help build resilience. All of these tips, and more, can be found in The Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution for Life, 60 Seconds at a Time, a book written by author and speaker, Jenny C. Evans.
Here are 15 Resiliency Tips to help you implement change for better performance at work and home, that will also improve overall health.
1. Play It Out! Just 30-60 seconds of intense physical activity mimics the fight-or-flight response and flushes out stress hormones. When you are stressed get moving! Playing It Out releases bliss molecules that neutralize stress, builds a stress-resistant brain, and increases cognitive function as well as brain size.
2. Eat an ideal breakfast! Skipping breakfast releases stress hormones and does not provide the body and brain the adequate fuel it depends on to thrive. Within an hour or so after you wake up, put some fuel into your system. (Example: eggs, whole grain toast and fruit.) It is also important that your breakfast contains protein, because it provides a steady source of energy and will make you feel fuller longer.
3. Be sure to snack! Some people don’t eat as frequent as they should during the day because they think their schedule won’t allow for it. Little do they know that eating a snack helps their productivity during a busy day by supplying their body and brain the much needed energy they need to function. Snacks also help you avoid overeating at meals. When selecting snacks: 1) Make sure they are small, 50-150 calories. 2) Make the snack low glycemic. (Examples: an apple, whole wheat crackers, walnuts, almonds or soybeans.)
4. You don’t need large chunks of time to exercise! Think 10/10/10. Several studies compared people who exercised 30 consecutive minutes against those who achieved 30 minutes of exercise through three ten-minute bouts throughout the day. The conclusions of the studies showed that results were similar, if not better for the 10/10/10 group.
5. When you Play It Out: Start interval training! There is a direct connection between training the heart rate to drop and recover after the stress of exercise and getting it to drop and recover after the stress of everyday life. Interval training (short bursts of high intensity work followed by short periods of recovery) helps your body learn to recover from physical stress. Training the body to recover from any type of stress (physical, mental, or emotional) improves resiliency.
6. Plate it out! What, when and how you eat can increase stress. Lean protein should comprise 25% of your plate. Fruits and/or vegetables should take up 50% of your plate. Whole grains should make up the final 25%. This ideal ratio of nutrients gives your body what it needs to function optimally.
7. Stop having caffeine when you wake up! Cortisol levels naturally rise in the morning, and that is what wakes us up and gets us out of bed. Many of us drink coffee to dull hunger or get going, but unfortunately it’s not the best idea. Caffeine further exacerbates the stress response as excessive amounts stimulate the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Caffeine provides the chemical sensations of energy, but without real food, the brain and muscle cells have not been nourished.
8. Eat every 3 hours! Eating every three hours helps prevent overeating. It’s critical to keep blood glucose levels within an ideal range, which means we need to add glucose in moderate amounts several times throughout the day. When we skip meals or go too long without eating, glucose levels get too low, and the stress response is stimulated. Eating a large amount of food makes blood glucose levels too high. The pancreas must secrete insulin in an equally large amount in order to help transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of our brain, muscles, and organs. Overtime, the cells of the pancreas wear out, we’re unable to produce enough insulin, and it leads to diabetes.
9. Prefuel/Refuel/Stay Fueled! Make sure to put glucose in your system prior to Playing It Out. It fuels your workout and helps you burn a slightly higher rate of fat as fuel. This could be a piece of fruit or handful of nuts and dried fruit. During your workout, it is important to stay fueled. If exercising for less than sixty minutes, water is sufficient. However, if more than 60 minutes, foods or beverages containing glucose will help to keep you energized.
10. Stop dieting! Dieting is one of the most physiologically and psychologically stressful things we can do. Low blood glucose levels from not eating enough, or going too long without eating, signals the body that a famine is occurring. This triggers the fight-or-flight response and cortisol is released. You will lose muscle mass and your metabolism with slow down. Muscle mass improves resiliency, insulin and glucose sensitivity.
11. Meals can be simple! 60-second solutions for meals are important. Sometimes you feel too busy to eat or don’t have time. But meals do not have to be difficult or time consuming. Take the stress off yourself and make quick meals within a minute or two. Some examples of these 60-second solutions would be; scramble two eggs, add 1-tablespoon salsa, sliced avocado, and have a handful of tortilla chips. Open a can of tuna, spoon onto whole grain crackers, and top with sliced red pepper. Many other ideas can be found in The Resiliency rEvolution.
12. Stop thinking of food as good/bad or healthy/not! Making food forbidden only makes us want it more, and trying to resist it makes us stressed. When you get rid of the “all or nothing” thinking about certain foods, the stress of overeating goes away. Enjoy small amounts of sweets without the guilt!
13. We need willpower, but it is not always reliable! Making decisions wears out willpower. Willpower is like a muscle – it gets tired out and exhausted with constant, repeated use. The more we use it, the less we have. Learn to be strategic about when you use it. Sleep and exercise preserve willpower.
14. Optimal defaults preserve willpower! Do yourself a favor and create an environment for yourself that will allow you to make healthy choices easier. When we create an optimal default activity, there is no more wrestling necessary about what the best option is and we don’t have to use precious mental energy. Some examples would be to eat ice cream out of a wine glass (it looks like more in a smaller container) or join a social group centered around exercise.
15. Change = Stress! Whether life saving or simple, changes to your environment induce stress. Change means the unknown, discomfort, restriction, denying desires, hard work, and the possibility of failure. Keep this in mind when trying to change unhealthy behaviors. Expect that you will be faced with adversity that can lead to lapses from time to time. Be realistic about the process of change on your journey. When you make change easy enough, it won’t trigger the stress response, and you will experience more success!
To have Jenny Evans come and speak to your organization on stress, resiliency, performance and health, contact her here.