The levels of stress you experience can have significant negative effects on your life. Often people engage in problematic behaviors, such as over or under eating, drinking and smoking in response to stress. These types of behaviors can create both physical and psychological problems and increase stress over time.
Many Americans experience stress on a daily basis. To better understand the stress faced by average people in America, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducts an annual survey to determine where our stress is coming from.
It’s important to understand and address factors that interfere with your ability to cope in positive ways. In the 2010 APA survey, lack of willpower was the top barrier to changing stress levels.
In this survey, women were more likely than men to view lack of willpower as preventing them from making the lifestyle and behavior changes recommended by a health care provider.
In order to improve their willpower, women said they needed to decrease fatigue, increase energy and improve confidence.
Men were more likely to say they need more money, while women were more likely to say they need more time. Women identified household chores, in particular, as interfering with their willpower to cope with stress in healthy ways.
Strategies to Decrease Fatigue and Increase Energy:
- Keep regular sleep hours. Sometimes it’s hard to do, but skipping that late show and getting into bed at the same time each night can make a big difference in how you sleep and your energy the next day.
- Get natural light. Natural light helps our bodies regulate when to wake up and get energized and when to fall asleep. Sitting by a window or making a point to get outside several times throughout the day can leave you awake during the day and tired at night.
- Get exercise. This is a big one and often the hardest to do. But remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you’re having trouble getting started, try exercising for 3 minutes. Get up and walk around, do a few lunges or stretch. You can always increase your time or build more in later. The important thing is to get started.
- Notice illness or pain. Often pain, illness and health problems interfere with both energy and your ability to sleep. When we’re stressed, we often ignore health problems until they become severe. Take note of how you are doing physically and go to a doctor or treat health problems before they escalate. Both your energy levels and sleep will likely improve.
- Improve your eating habits. During times of stress it’s normal to crave salty and fatty foods or extra sweets. But overindulging can have a significant impact on your energy levels. Too much sugar can give you a spike in energy and then a sudden crash. Foods with a lot of simple carbohydrates (a bagel, for example) can have a similar effect. Swapping out a few problem foods and replacing them with something healthier (say a fruit, wheat toast or popcorn) can have more of an impact on your energy then you might think.
Part II, which will be posted in one week, will include strategies to improve confidence and decrease the pressures that interfere with your willpower.
You can find more strategies to improve how you feel and stick to your goals in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.