By Stephanie Camins, LPC
Is there anyone who doesn’t answer yes to this question? Let’s face it, life is stressful! The answer to this question, however, is yes you can manage stress and live a healthier life! Although life is full of stressful moments, balancing them with positive activities helps offset the impact and reduce the OVERWHELM stress can cause.
The research of Daniel Goleman, the developer of Emotional Intelligence, shows that “renewal activities” can reverse the damage caused by stress. Renewal activities are any activities that prompt the body to release healing, feel-good hormones to manage stress.
Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for turning on our alert system and keeping us alive. It is important when you need to be attuned to impending danger. The problem enters when we are in a state of chronic stress. When this system is overactivated, the part of our brain used for working memory shrinks. You can suffer from high blood pressure, high heart rate, a weakened immune system and a decreased ability to form new neural connections in your brain. All the more reason to learn how to manage stress!
“Our body has one major way to alleviate the damage from chronic stress – arousal of the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the mode of rest and recovery. The hormones released when the PNS activates reverse the effects of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). They help our blood pressure drop, our pulse rate slows, and our breathing both slows and gets deeper. Meanwhile, our immune system operates at its maximum and the brain creates new neurons. And, we are at our cognitive best: we can do our most complex thinking, be our most creative, and be most open to new ideas.”Daniel Goleman
Increasing your capacity to manage stress and feel a sense of well-being relies on the buffering effect of positive activities. Goleman uses the term renewal activities to represent any activity that results in feeling good. It can be as simple as relaxing, having a good laugh, a meaningful conversation, petting your fur baby, deep breathing, yoga, exercise, reading, meditation, helping others, or being in nature. Renewal activities are different for everyone.
While we cannot eliminate stress, we can reduce its impact by increasing our renewal activities. Renewal heals the body and bolsters the spirit. Check out this list from Richard Boyatzis and Daniel Goleman’s Personal Sustainability Index (PSI). Take note of how many times a week you engage in these activities. The more you increase your engagement with positive activities the more you will offset the damage stress causes to your mind and body.
- A loving moment with your spouse, partner, or significant other.
- Having fun with your spouse, partner, or significant other.
- Coaching or mentoring someone (formally or informally).
- Helping a friend or colleague with compassionate approach (as opposed to trying to “fix” them).
- Thinking about your values or purpose.
- Talking with others about your shared values or purpose.
- Practice yoga, tai chi or similar martial arts.
- Physical exercise.
- Played with a pet (dog, cat, horse, monkey).
- Walked or exercised a pet.
- Volunteered or provided care for someone in need.
- Ate a meal with family that was pleasant or fun.
- Walked in nature.
- Laughed with others.
- Played with a small child.
You may have other activities not listed here. The important part is that you do them more often in order to effectively manage stress. Although stress is inevitable, it does not need to take over your life. Check out these other resources provided by Daniel Goleman:
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