Goal-Oriented: 4 tips to deal with stress

When the alarm clock goes off in the morning do you automatically think about the 10 things you need to do before lunch? Do you lay in bed stressing about what you should do first? If you are like most people (including me) you have a lot going on—and with each responsibility comes added stress.

Added stress causes inflammation throughout your body. Some stress, when managed properly (i.e. exercise) can be very beneficial to your overall health. However, when we have added stress (i.e. work, financial, relationship, etc.) this can wreak havoc on the way we feel. Below are some tips to help you manage your stress.

1. Write down a “must do” list before you go to bed

Instead of saying “I have a lot to do today” sit down and write on a piece of paper or on your computer five things that you MUST do tomorrow. By writing this down the previous night, you can have an outline of what you really want to accomplish for each day.

As you accomplish each task, cross it off and move on to the next item on the list. If you get all five tasks completed, feel free to add one to two more items to the list. The simple act of writing this list will give you structure.

2. Learn to breathe properly

After you wake up and have your coffee or smoothie, take five minutes and take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. The reason I recommend people incorporate breathing into their daily routine early in the day is because it allows you to relax and focus on what is happening with your body. It also gives you a chance to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps promote recovery. In my experience it is a great way to start your day.

3. Exercise regularly

Most people who exercise on a regular basis feel better. One thing we need to keep in mind is that exercise is a form of stress. However, when people listen to their body and establish and follow a plan exercise can be a great way to relieve stress. Here are three (3) ways to incorporate exercise into your life.

  • Walk: Go for a long walk outside. Instead of walking on the treadmill at the gym, get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. This simple tip can help relieve stress in people.
  • Strength Train: Set aside 30-45 minutes three or four times per week to incorporate some strength training into your routine. When people lift weights properly they feel better after a training session. Keep the volume low/medium but the intensity high. 
  • Yoga: Set aside two (2) days per week to do either a group yoga class or an in home program. I personally do not do a lot of yoga; however, I know several people who truly believe in the health benefits of incorporating yoga into their weekly routine.

Here is an extra tip when exercising. Wear a heart rate monitor to see how your body is responding to your training. This is a great tool to use to see the changes that are taking place while you train.

4. What you think matters

The only thing that we have control over is our thoughts. If you have a tendency to think negative, this will affect how you feel. This is easier said than done, and I admit it is something I need to work on. The next time you start to stress over something, stop for a minute and take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths and see how you feel. I don’t expect you to have positive thoughts all day long but do your best to be aware of your thoughts and how they may negatively affect you.

Stress is something that all of us have. Some stress can be positive and how we think about stress is critical to how it affects our body. The next time you feel overwhelmed take a step back and try to incorporate some of the tips mentioned above.

Good luck!

Kevin Miller is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Philadelphia Union. He is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and has been working with the Union since their inaugural 2010 season. Check out Kevin's Instagram: @KevinMillerTraining


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