I’ve received a few e-mails from readers of Sunday’s On Nutrition column asking about tips for reducing stress and advice for how much sleep we really need. Here are a few short answers, will links to more information:
Stress is an inevitable, and sometimes unavoidable, part of our lives. Stress management is not about eliminating stress…it’s about lessening it’s impact. Managing or reducing stress is about avoiding or preventing stressful situations when you can, and learning how to react to stressful situations differently when you can’t avoid them.
One example of avoiding/preventing stress would be taking the bus to work if driving in commute traffic then trying to park stresses you out. Another would be setting up some kind of reminder system (such as through your e-mail or on your smart phone) for things like doctors appointments and bill due dates if you find yourself forgetting, paying no-show or finance fees, and then getting stressed and upset with yourself.
An example of changing how you react to stress is to find alternatives to diving into the ice cream or chips when you are under stress. This could be going for a walk around the block, listening to music, calling a friend who never fails to make you laugh, taking several deep breaths, watching a cat video…there are a million things you can do to diffuse stress healthfully, but you need to find the ones that work for you. Another example is building the mindset that just because someone around you is stressed, doesn’t mean you have to be, too. You don’t have to feel their feelings. I’m still working on this one myself…it doesn’t always work, but it works more than it used to.
This MedlinePlus page on stress has some good links to lots of resources and ideas.
As for sleep, most experts say adults need between 7 and 9 hours a night. Two signs that you aren’t getting enough are: 1) You find yourself getting drowsy during the day (boring meetings are no excuse) and/or 2) you almost always fall asleep within a few minutes of your head hitting the pillow. For more tips, check out this PDF from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
And as for the rest of my column, the nutrition and exercise part? I think this fun little video from the Turn the Tide Foundation nicely covers it: