Monday, March 27, 2017

How To Stay Calm & Cool In Stressful Everyday Situations

I originally wrote this article for York Life magazine. I am sharing it here because I know that we all experience stress in our busy lives and I hope these simple tips will help you to manage your stress levels in tense situations and be kind to your body.

Get Calm and Carry On

Sure you can find your inner zen at your weekly yoga class, but how do you stay calm and cool when dealing with an angry customer or when you’re running late — and stuck in traffic? Dr. Meghan MacKinnon, a naturopathic doctor in Aurora, shares her tips on getting to your happy place, wherever you are — no yoga mat required.

Your business meeting is getting tense.

The office bully has taken control of the meeting and you’re in fight-or-flight mode. Your body is doing what it’s supposed to do - secreting adrenaline and noradrenaline in response to stress. It's your job to tell your body things are okay. Guide your nervous system away from a stress response by consciously controlling your breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose to a count of five, then exhale slowly. Repeat the sequence until you feel calmer.

If work meetings consistently tend to become strained, rethink your morning brew. Caffeine falsely elevates adrenaline. “As an alternative to a more stimulating cup of coffee, try having green tea, which has less caffeine as well as something called L-theanine which acts as a calmer or balancer for the nervous system,” suggests MacKinnon. A cup of chamomile tea is caffeine-free and provides physical and mental relaxation.

You’re running late — and stuck in traffic.

When minutes stretch into hours and you’re still staring at the bumper of the car ahead of you, you’re bound to get frustrated. But ask yourself, how serious a problem is this? Maybe you’re stressed because you’re late for an appointment or maybe you’re just eager to get where you want to go. First-world problems. “Being late doesn't have to become a serious long-term stress. Your body and mind will recover,” MacKinnon says. “These types of rationalizations can help immensely in the moment to send the message to your body that it's okay.”

You’re trying to get the family out the door in the morning and nobody is cooperating.

Ain’t nobody got time for that. But before you let loose with a primal scream, take a breather. “Try something called alternate nasal breathing,” MacKinnon suggests. Plug one nostril with your finger while inhaling. This will help slow your breathing if you're having difficulty doing it on your own. “Just like you can't expect to run a marathon without training, the more deep-breathing practice you do the better you'll get at it,” she says. And you might want to get up earlier tomorrow.

Your mom criticizes you for the umpteenth time.

Nobody likes a critic, but try not to take it to heart. “Gently explain your feelings and position on the subject matter and try to not react explosively,” MacKinnon advises. Recognize patterns in how you usually respond and practice calmer, more effective communication to avoid sending your body into a stress response. “People behaving angrily or in a hostile manner are often looking for an argument, so give them the opposite - a calm, quiet demeanor,” she says. Speak softly and slowly to diffuse a tense situation - for both your sakes.

Up Your Inner Bliss

Drink away your stress

No, not that kind of drink! Many people are deficient in magnesium, a mineral that helps to relax the muscles, body and mind. Natural Calm is a powdered supplement that turns into an effervescent drink when mixed with water or juice to promote healthy magnesium levels.

The sweet smell of sleep

If stress keeps you up at night, tuck a lavender sachet under your pillow. The scent of lavender has calming properties.

There’s an app for that

“Meditation is a great way to get your nervous system in shape and teach your body what it feels like to be calm,” MacKinnon says. She recommends the app Stop, Breathe & Think, which provides guided meditations for beginners.

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Suggested reading

Check out these 40+ vegan and nut-free lunch and snack ideas!

Questions for you

Do you experience any of these stressful situations in your life? What other situations cause you stress? Do you have any tips for coping with stress?

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