Stress Management for a Healthy Lifestyle
By Heidi R. Cherwony, PsyD
You are fed up! You spent the morning arguing with your spouse, all afternoon your children nagged you and you have a pile of unpaid bills to deal with this evening. All you want to do is escape! You indulge in your favorite ice cream, find your most comfortable chair and reach for the remote control. Sound familiar? Most of us know that eating and playing couch potato are not effective responses to stress because this does not solve your problems.
Good health is not an accident. Lifestyle factors determine the quality and longevity of your life. A healthy lifestyle includes eating a healthy diet, exercising in moderation, expressing your needs and emotions, relaxing and socializing. These learned skills are positive experiences that will help you stay in tune with your mind and body.
Self-nurturing activities such as keeping a journal can help you express your emotions, deal with challenges, set goals, sharpen self-awareness and make connections. Another example of a healthy coping skill is positive self-talk, whereby you can monitor and challenge your thoughts. Your ‘diet’ does not have to start on Monday! You also do not have to be at your perfect weight to be happy. You will be more content when you become aware of ‘all or nothing’ thought patterns and start to become more flexible.
Recognize health as the lifelong learning experience that it is, with happiness and success as part of your journey. I encourage my patients to keep a coffee table book of gratitude that will help in celebrating what you DO have as well as your victories, whether big or small.
And last but not least, turn your antennae inwards toward yourselves. Well-being requires self-care of your own mind and body. If you find yourself saying ‘yes’ too often when you in fact mean ‘no’, practice setting limits on other people’s demands for your time. Say, ‘No, thank you.’
As you apply these concepts in examining yourself and establishing a meaningful plan for your life, you will be prepared to follow your dreams and work toward your healthy lifestyle.