It’s that time again when people the world over are making New Year’s resolutions, usually with the aim of bettering themselves or achieving goals. While fitness and healthy eating are usually included in these resolutions, one thing that is often overlooked is the management of stress. High stress levels can have serious implications for your health so should be considered to be as important as fitness or weight loss goals. If you have had high levels of stress during 2013, perhaps 2014 is the year for you to implement a stress management plan.
So, what is a stress management plan? Put simply, it is a plan to manage your stress that takes a holistic approach; including identifying, eliminating or minimizing stress and taking care of your body. A stress management plan should be re-visited regularly as stressors in your life can change often. Here are some things to consider to get started with your 2014 stress management plan;
Identify the causes of your stress
Have a think about what causes you stress and write these things down. You should assign them a priority order with the highest stress items at the top as these are the most important to deal with first. Stressors that are minor or irregular do not really need to be included in a stress management plan.
Identify strategies to cope with the stress
Once you have listed a priority order of the things that cause you stress, you can implement techniques to either eliminate or better manage those stressors. For example, if being highly committed to many things is a cause of stress, you may like to note down everything you are committed to right now and choose which things you are able to eliminate and free up more time. If you are unable to drop anything, consider techniques such as time management which will help you to better manage your tasks. Don’t forget to include time for yourself! Here are a few extra ideas if over-commitment is an issue;
– Use project plans, calendars and milestones to manage your commitments.
– Write down lists of the things you need to do. This will help you to sleep better rather than lying awake worrying, it is also satisfying to tick things off!
– Break big jobs down into small tasks and focus on one task at a time. This helps so that you do not just see one big mess with the temptation to procrastinate!
Plan to look after your body
While diet and exercise are staples on resolution lists, usually to do with fitness or weight goals, they are also very important for building resilience and allowing you to cope better with stress.
Exercise has been found to have both physiological and psychological benefits, including lowering of blood pressure, producing ‘feel good’ endorphins and giving a feeling of well-being which helps you to cope better with stressful situations.
A healthy diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables and ‘good’ oils has also been found to help with stress management. Foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3s are particularly good to include in your diet.
Of course, if you already struggle with having the time, the best way to ensure you succeed in including exercise and healthy eating as part of your plan is to do a bit of forward planning. Make sure you have healthy foods on hand that are easy to grab, schedule in exercise and make healthy meals ahead of time so that you are not tempted to grab an easy (but unhealthy!) takeaway on the way home. Another strategy you could use that has been shown to ensure greater success is to tell others about your goals and even include them in your activities. It is much more fun to share!