Counselling takes a long time – is there anything I can do to help me feel better right away, when I am struggling in my life?
Signed: Quick Fix
Dear Quick Fix,
Yes actually – there are a few areas that you could focus on to help you see almost immediate improved results with your overall stress levels. We call these our “Foundations” – they are the four essential building blocks upon which everything else rests – and if they are not solid (on a daily basis), then we find ourselves more emotional, more exhausted, more distracted and more low energy. That’s when the stress from all the other aspects of our life can creep in and cause even more chaos. The four key Foundations are these: Sleep, Nutrition, Hydration and Activity. We need to be able to get the proper amount of restful sleep each night – which means we have to be passing through the 5 sleep cycle stages properly. A good night’s sleep can lower our blood pressure by up to 7 points, allowing us to start the next day at a much lower stress level. We want to be sure that we are eating enough food consistently throughout our day to ensure that we don’t run out of “gas”. Facing the challenges of the day requires actual fuel – emotionally, mentally and physically – and food intake is a natural way to get this fuel. Learn to graze (small bits every hour) if you find it difficult to eat regular meals throughout the day. If we don’t feed our bodies often enough, we end up running on empty, which increases our stress levels. We also need to drink a lot of water – not coffee, or pop, or juice, etc. Our bodies need water to work effectively – and water is one of the four ways we can flush cortisol (the stress hormone) out of our systems, which lowers our stress levels. And even though it can be hard to do at times, especially when we are facing challenges with mental health issues, we need to be active throughout our day. This doesn’t always mean going to the gym or playing sports – sometimes, being active means just being able to get out of bed to walk around the house, or maybe going to the backyard just for a minute or two. Do what you can – and aim for moments of activity at least 3 times a day (no less than 5 minutes each time, if you are struggling) – once in the morning, once in the afternoon and again in the evening. Spacing out the activity has better end results than when we try to cram it in all at once.
There are many more little tips and tricks I can share to help with knowing how to effectively manage all 4 of these basic Foundations – if you have a question, drop me a quick email and ask me anything. I would be happy to make it the focus of our next column.
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