Last winter was comprised of the holidays, the snow, and oh yes, a whirlwind of colds. A parade of viruses and hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol and constantly washing my hands. I contribute a significant part of that to the germs of children; they’re cute and all, but I was working in an environment where little kids and their germs were quite prevalent. However, I had to look inward and hone in on the truth that I can be a variable in all this, too. I had to admit that stress can make me more susceptible to sickness. This doesn’t mean that stress literally causes a cold, but it makes your system a bit more vulnerable, teetering the line between succumbing to sickness or fighting it off before it can begin.
When New Year’s came along, I seized the opportunity for symbolism, to make a New Year’s resolution (the big NYR), to minimize stress in the hopes I don’t (inadvertently) acquire as many colds, but also because it’s easier on me, emotionally. (And that’s not to say I don’t typically move through a stressful situation to get to the other side, but minimizing stress when it manifests is a whole other mentality.)
Here are a few ways I’ve tried to minimize stress that may help you lovely readers as well.
- Give Myself a Pep Talk: I tend to believe that this method is the most important one since I think a lot in my day to day. And for me, being conscious of the fact that I want to minimize stress is probably the biggest incentive for me to do so. Whenever I sense that I’m starting to feel stressed due to X, Y, or Z, I reflect on the situation to highlight the emotional resolution — to reframe what’s occurring in a beneficial, cognitive way. I may also acknowledge how I’m feeling, too; labels can help identify what I’m experiencing, and in turn, allow me to move through it more efficiently.
- Breathe It Out: I’m sure you’ve seen this a million times over on several blogs such as this, but I usually find that deep breathing can help alleviate tension and induce relaxation. It helps to be aware of each breath being inhaled and exhaled. Some love to meditate during a breathing exercise, but I like to ‘soothe’ myself with my own positive thinking. (There I go again with the pep talks.)
- Take a Walk: Going for a walk is such a symbolic way to ‘get out of your head’ and ‘into your body.’ Sometimes, I find myself reaching a particular clarity and feeling more calm about a situation after I venture outside and into the fresh air. (Everyone has different weather preferences when it comes to general walking; I love the moderate temperatures that spring or fall bring, but in the summer I go for walks at night when the humidity breaks, and come winter, I try for walks during the day when it’s not brutally frigid…but I digress.)
In my research for this blog post, I came across advice from Dr. Wilson, Ph.D., a physician who specializes in understanding the physiology behind heath conditions that pertain to stress. Not only does he stress (ha, see what I did there), the importance of exercise, but he encourages a healthy lifestyle, which in my opinion, can also be pertinent in regards to keeping stress more in check.
“Just making a few healthy choices can create some positive changes in your life that can be permanent,” Wilson says. “Start with something easy like adding 3 fresh fruits or veggies to your diet each day for a week. Drink 8 glasses of water a day. Commit to getting a full 8 hours of sleep a night. These small changes can lead to even bigger changes that can help you manage stress so much more effectively.” (I can certainly attest to eating healthier and getting enough sleep; certain ‘junk foods’ actually have the potential to fuel anxiety.)
In my desperate attempts to thwart colds (I also have to mention that various supplements have helped in this department, too), I’ve tried to become more diligent in minimizing stress when it manifest. Of course it’s easier said than done, but reframing the situation (and identifying what your ultimately goal is — to minimize), deep breathing, going for walks, and be conscientious of lifestyle choices, can perhaps reduce the impact of stress.