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Published on April 14, 2021

How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy
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You didn’t get to where you are in life without learning how to relieve stress along the way. But just because you’ve “been there, done that” doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be easier this time around. Granted life experience will likely have taught you the old refrain, “this too shall pass” but that same life experience will also likely have taught you something about the active role you need to take to combat stress from time to time and how we could all stand to benefit from a stress-busting reboot.

I think we all know the dangerous side effects of too much stress in our lives. Stress is a major contributor to many poor health outcomes, such as diabetes, weight gain, hypertension, poor memory, and a whole host of mental health issues.[1] Therefore, how we manage the stress in our lives, needs to be revisited with a fresh and new perspective, in the same way, we need to clean out and freshen up our closet every so often.

Below are my top 10 strategies to relieve stress and restore energy with a fresh look at some old favorites that are guaranteed to help you self-optimize for health and happiness in body, mind, and spirit.

1. Compartmentalize—Prioritization on Steroids

People think of the compartmentalizing tactic in different ways, and there are negative associations with this term. However, when I suggest that you compartmentalize to manage your stress—or better yet, relieve stress—what I am referring to is the idea that you block out certain parts of your life that are distracting you from what you need to do in your daily life.

For example, you are at work but also have some extraordinary stress in your private life due to ailing parents with no siblings to share in the caretaking. Managing this alongside your own family and professional responsibilities, which were already heavy enough, places an enormous amount of stress on you.

When you compartmentalize, you put up mental blinders to help you focus on the task in front of you with the knowledge that managing your parent’s living and financial situation will be handled in due time after work hours.

Learning how to block out these different realms of your life will help you prioritize and manage the work that is in front of you.

2. Get Outside, It’s Like Therapy

Simply getting outside in the fresh air will automatically bring down your stress levels and restore some lost energy.[2] The research around this growing field known as ecotherapy is proving once again how powerful nature is and how we can improve our mental wellbeing along with our physical and spiritual health with time outdoors.[3]

When you are outside, you are more likely to have increased activity levels and will be exposing yourself to the mood-boosting sun, which helps our body create vitamin D. Research on vitamin D indicates that those who are vitamin D deficient may be more susceptible to inflammatory illness, depression and lowered resistance to stress, and more and more of us are becoming vitamin D deficient across the United States.[4]

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Spending as little as 10 minutes outside every day can be enough to improve mood, mental focus, and decrease blood pressure. Think of the increased concentration and improved efficiency you will get as a return on investment that yields way better growth on your aptitude and attitude for life.

3. Do an Organization Reboot

We all know the secret to success is largely due to organization or at least some form of it. I would argue that organization is a process. We build structures to organize information and life events based on our current demands. Over the course of your life, this will vary and probably increase as your life becomes more complicated, which will force you to innovate and change things up as you go.

What was enough in college or your first job out of college may not be enough at this point in your life. Furthermore, many, many systems can help us organize, and too many can detract from their intended benefits.

Assessing and weeding out the unnecessary systems or consolidating from the many to one might just be the answer.

Is a family calendar on Google more efficient than the calendar hanging in the kitchen? Don’t just assume that the answer will be in tech. Sometimes the old-fashioned pen and paper is more practical and might also serve as a better physical reminder—think of the whiteboard in the kitchen vs the hidden “to-do list” on your smartphone with reminders that consistently fail.

Another strategy for your organization reboot is an organization self-assessment. First, what it is that you need help organizing, and what the intended outcome is? Is it for communication purposes—to make sure that everyone is on the same page—or is it to help you process and think about the workload in front of you? Answering these 2 questions will help you move forward as you think about what makes the most sense for you, your family, or your team at work.

Another way to approach an organization reboot is to ask other people how they stay organized. This is especially helpful when taking on new responsibilities that might come with a job change or a new family dynamic.

I did this in a new position I recently took and by collecting data on how other people approached their work (think of the complex systems in public education), I was able to create “a best practice” that worked for me and that I could share with my colleagues. Something that could earn you some extra kudos is a bonus, especially when you are the new kid on the block.

4. Engage Your Creative Brain

When we engage the creative parts of ourself we tap into the part of our brain that releases dopamine, which has a naturally calming, therapeutic effect. Needless to say, this will almost immediately help us to relax and will lower our stress levels. One of the premises for which art therapy has been well established.

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In one study, in particular, it was found that after just 45 minutes of engaging with artistic materials, regardless of the level of production or artistic talent the person had, there was a notable decrease of cortisol in 75% of the participants.[5]

Music therapy is another form of creative art that can relieve stress and restore our energy.[6] Many of us use music to help us decompress or move into another part of our day or activity. Music also taps into this part of our brain that increases focus and can help us emulate the feeling or “vibe” we perceive in the music. As we know, upbeat music will help you feel more positive while slower music can help you feel more relaxed by easing some of the tension in your body.

There are tons of great playlists out there aimed at stress relief. The next time you are on your preferred music streaming service, test out a few and see which works for you. Needless to say, music is one of those things that we can have in the background while moving forward with other parts of our day.

Perhaps this is another area in need of a reboot that could enhance your stress relief routine.

5. Do You Need a Vacation or Weekend Away?

Vacation opportunities may not be as readily available as we would like. However, it doesn’t have to be a week in the tropics to feel the benefits of a short break from your everyday routine.

If we are optimizing our time with some of the above strategies, perhaps we might be able to sneak in that weekend getaway or even just a day trip with the family. Getting out of your everyday environment, especially when trying to build in some respite and relieve stress, can do wonders for our mind, body, and spirit.

We may love our homes, but they do represent the endless “to-do list” and remind us of all the things that contribute to our stress levels. Getting away from this environment where you can get outside and engage in some of your favorite activities with your favorite people will free your mind and your body.

Granted, COVID-19 has definitely hindered our road trip or vacation opportunities. However, with a little creativity, we can build in the little breaks that we need to relieve some stress, reconnect with the people who are important in our lives, and help us to feel ready for the next hurdle in front of us.

6. Meditation and Mindfulness, Make Them a Habit

Meditation and mindfulness can offer endless benefits to us emotionally and psychologically, which will naturally relieve stress. Many of those benefits include increased focus, relaxation, and a decrease in the mental clutter in your head.

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One of the biggest challenges with mediation or mindfulness is that to feel the impact, we need to practice it consistently, which takes discipline. The people who are most successful at integrating mediation and mindfulness into their self-care and stress relief routines are people who build it into their daily practices.

And as is true with many strategies, we don’t need to spend hours doing it. Just 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a difference, but we do need to make sure we are doing it.

Maybe there is a 5 or 10-minute window at the end or beginning of your day where you could fit this consistently? There are lots of great apps to help guide you through your mediation with music and visualization.

7. Fight Off “Aloneliness” and Find Your Alone Time

I read an article recently about “aloneliness,” which is the opposite of loneliness. As an introvert, I have always been that person who replenishes her energy from time alone but never quite thought about the craving as a likening to loneliness for the introvert.

The benefits of alone time are science-backed and include those things that many times go out the window when we are stressed and overwhelmed—things like creativity, mental strength, and productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people without the opportunity to have their alone time, which could be another reason that you are feeling more stressed and less able to deal with your daily challenges.

You might need to be strategic, but you could build some alone time into your life with a walk outside to get lunch for example, which will also be incorporating strategy #2 on this list.

8. Find Balance in Your Life

Stress can turn our lives upside down and throw everything off-kilter. Finding your equilibrium, getting your bearings straight, and finding the balance in your life between the many demands of family, partner, work, and friends is essential.

If you are feeling increased stress, take a look at the demands around you and make sure that there is a balance between the different parts of your life—in particular, the areas where you find more nourishment for the soul.

Incorporating the well-known life coaching strategy “life wheel” is a great way to think about the different parts of your life to ensure that you are giving all areas the time and attention that they need.

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9. Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene

It’s no secret that sleep can be your best friend or public enemy number one. As the saying goes, “what a difference a day can make” is in large part due to a restful night’s sleep. However, when we are stressed, sleep is one of the first things to get out of whack.

If you are going through a period of high stress, you are likely feeling an increase in outside or family demands. Finding the time to fit it all in may naturally creep into your sleeping hours or, on the other hand, the stress might keep you from being able to get a restful night’s sleep. Either of these two scenarios is a case where it might be good to take a look at your sleep routine and force you to be a little more protective of it.

Some of my go-to tips and strategies around maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are:[7]

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Maintain your physical activity
  3. Limit alcohol
  4. Sleep in a cooler environment
  5. Get plenty of fresh air

So, before you get to thinking that you can sleep “later,” remember that healthy people and well-balanced lives have a healthy amount of sleep in their lives.

10. Animal Love

There’s tons of research out there about the benefits of having a pet, in particular, a dog or a cat. Taking care of a pet or any member of the animal kingdom can have such a positive impact on our mood and psychological well-being that our brain releases a hormone known as oxytocin, dubbed the love hormone.

We get this hormone from other nurturing (human) relationships as well, but we cannot underestimate the impact this can have on us when we care for and connect with one of our four-legged buddies. A case in point is the fact that many pet owners report feeling a connection to their pet that rivals that of any significant human connection and, in some cases, can even be more significant than a human-to-human connection.[8]

Additionally, having a pet will likely promote other healthy habits. Some of which I spoke about above, such as being outside more often and increasing your physical activity. On a social level, connecting with friends and neighbors about your pet creates a shared connection—another protective factor in the fight against stress.

Botton Line

Modern life places many demands on us which hits us in different ways during different periods of our lives. Maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being requires a fresh and renewed approach every so often.

If you take the time today—to take care of yourself for tomorrow by revamping the old worn-out items in your self-care toolbox—you will reap the benefits 20 fold! Learning how to relieve stress from our life is a process that we will need to revisit time and time again, each time getting better and better.

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More Tips on How to Cope With Stress

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Meredith Flanagan

Embracing a strengths-based approach to life, passionate about creating opportunity out of adversity.

Can Coffee Cause Anxiety Or Depression? 10 Best Natural Sleep Aids to Help You Sleep How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better
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Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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