Stress Reduction by Sleeping Better.

Sleeping stress free cat!
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost

Sleeping well is an important part of stress management. It’s a no brainer that having a high level of stressors can interfere with sleep. So while we focus on sleep let us not forget that we must also look to our other stressors and work to manage them as well. Don’t forget to review the steps in the previous section Stress-Management here. That said getting in the habit of sleeping well could greatly reduce the stress you feel while awake and your ability to manage any stresses that do come up.

So what constitutes good sleep?

We often focus on the hours of consecutive sleep as one measure. February 2015 the National Sleep Foundation changed the sleep ranges for many categories of humans.

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Check out the full article here.

For the purposes of this article we will focus on the young adult through older adult ages.

First determine if you are getting enough sleep. Track your sleep on paper by writing down when you go to bed and when you wake as well as estimating how long it takes to fall asleep and any interruptions to your sleep through the night. You could also use one of the fitness trackers on the market to track your sleep.

If you find you are not getting enough sleep take a look at your habits around sleep. Are you…

  • Getting to bed at approximately the same time each day?
  • Rising at the approximately the same time each day?
  • Using your bed only for sleep and sex?
  • Turning off the television and stepping away from screens at least one hour before bedtime?

These are important components to having the best shot at a good night of sleep. Changing schedules from day to day can wreak havoc on sleep quality. Having a good routine is a must. Another important component is not using your bed as the command center for your life. Your brain needs to know that the bed is for certain activities which allows it to relax when bedtime rolls around. Things like solving the problems of the world and watching television or using computers cause the brain to become more stimulated which interferes with sleep. The blue and green pixels from television and other screens also suppresses melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone) which naturally rises as bedtime approaches.

Doing those things and still not sleeping well? Start looking at your daytime habits. Are you…

  • Getting at least 30-60 minutes of natural light?
  • Avoiding stimulants like caffeine at least 5 hours prior to bedtime and nicotine at least 1 hour prior to bed?
  • Getting 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise during the day?
  • Avoiding intense exercise within 4 hours of bedtime?

Natural Light

Exposure to natural light (sunlight) in the early part of the day helps to reset the circadian rhythm which helps make you more alert during the day and sets you up for better sleep at night.

Stimulants

Stimulants used through the day and into the late afternoon and evening can interfere with sleep. If you don’t experience sleep difficulties no worries, but if you are struggling with sleep cutting off the supply of caffeine to your brain earlier in the day may be helpful. If you are a heavy caffeine user it is best to taper your use over time as cutting off the supply suddenly could cause a major headache.

Exercise

Exercise helps the body in multiple ways, but can also help improve your sleep. According to the folks over at hopkinsmedicine.org “30 minutes of moderate exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.” And moderate exercise isn’t marathoning or olympic style speed stuff. The moderate zone is when you are noticing the effort, are breathing heavier, but can still talk and hold a conversation (but can’t sing), and you notice you are sweating a bit after 10 or so minutes of effort.aking one or more of these changes is a benefit to your sleep and helps to decrease stress during your waking hours.

Give it a try

Make one or more of these changes and decide for yourself if they help improve your sleep and help decrease stress during your waking hours.

Sleeping better and still stressed? Take a look at a previous post for other stress reduction strategies here and here.

Have a great day–Lynda

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

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Political Stress–What You Can Do To Decrease It.

Political tensions in Scotland were high in 2014 as voters decide to remain part of England rather than to leave.
2014 Scotland votes to remain a part of England

Political stress is becoming more common. In my practice I am hearing about the stress of the political climate with increasing frequency.

Whatever side of the aisle you land on (I am not here to debate politics) you may be feeling stressed.

This often occurs around the time of a big election when tensions are already high, but in the last 10 years or so it seems that the tension has been lasting longer. This is a global phenomenon. We are all touched by politics in some way.

If you are stressed about politics you are not alone. But what can we do about it on an individual level? The focus of this blog is to discuss stress and what we can do about it personally.

While none of us can directly change the political climate we can–and I argue should– manage our part in that climate. This is the part that is changeable on an individual level. Remember back in early posts we talked about looking at what we can control and what we can’t and developing strategies accordingly. Review those here and here.

Addressing Your Part in Politics

  • Know your issue(s)
  • Get involved at your comfort level
  • Act locally
  • Be kind
  • Get distance

Know the political issues you are passionate about.

Break down the issues and decide which are most important to you. There are a lot of issues in any cycle and it would be impossible for anyone to be well informed on ALL of them. Choose 1 or 2 that you feel most passionate about and focus on those. These are the issues that you will be best informed on. Everything else can be relegated to the back burner. In doing this you can be somewhat informed on those issues, while your primary issues are the ones that you’ll be most informed on.

Get involved at a level that feels right to you.

Get involved at your personal comfort level. Not everyone is built to make phone calls or knock on doors. If you feel most comfortable just being informed so you can talk with your friends and family about the issues you are most passionate about then that’s good enough. That said if you’ve always wanted to go door to door then find a way to do that.

Make local politics your point of entry and action.

Act locally. While national politics is often more accessible in terms of what we see and hear on the news or in our news feed, local politics is truly accessible to the individual.

Being involved at this level often provides a feeling of being really involved and then seeing how the issues play out. Also these are typically the politics that most affect us on a personal level, so getting involved here makes it more likely that you will have an effect that you can see/feel.

Be Kind

Be kind. Having political discussions is difficult if we don’t agree. Most of these conversations will likely occur with family members or work colleagues. While these conversations can be emotionally engaging they can also be minefields of disaster. If you devolve into saying things you can’t take back you will create more pain for yourself and your relationship. I would argue this also creates suffering for all involved. While you can’t control the others in the conversation, you can control your part. If things take a nasty turn, step back and even leave the situation if needed.

Take a break from the political fray.

If you are feeling so stressed that you don’t want to hear one more thing about politics take a break.

In my practice I often suggest a “news fast.” This is either completely tuning out of the news or radically changing your consumption.

I hear of many homes where the television is on to various news channels “all day.” Given that most news channels are cycling the same news over and over through the day that becomes a lot of repetition which can feel overwhelming.

I suggest turning off the television and consuming news through printed material. You may want to take a complete break and that’s good too. Every year I see more and more people taking a break from social media for a period of time. I think this is great because they are using their personal control over an issue that is feeling stressful to them.

In conclusion, if you are feeling stressed about politics you are not alone and better yet there is something you can do about it.

Which of the strategies above are you planning to implement to address political stress?

Leave your answer in the comment section.

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Technology and Stress–What Are You Missing?

Most of us have ready access to technology through computers and smart phones. This means that we are virtually never without access to information. We are also likely never far from our family or work. While this can be comforting to a point the constant availability can also be stressful. In this way technology increases our stress levels.

While this has enabled us to be more flexible with our time it can also increase stress if we aren’t able to set good boundaries around our use of these devices.

What’s the issue?

For many smartphone use has increased to the point that we are using them even in the midst of other activities. We’ve all seen it; folks who’ve made an effort to get together all sitting around looking at their phones. In many instances people still say they are “lonely” or feel “alone” much of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my smartphone as much as the next guy, but it can get in the way of relating sometimes. We have all had those moments when our partner gets home and we are deep into that audiobook or scrolling through social media. You find it hard to set it aside and lose that precious time with a loved one. Even though that’s what we were told that technology would do for us–free us up to do fun things with each other–and yet time and again we opt for tech over real world connection.

What will it take for us to use our devices when it is helpful and set them aside when we want to connect with others?

What to do?

I have a few ideas on this and the first and foremost we have to rejuvenate our capacity to sometimes be uncomfortable. We have to build a tolerance for boredom.

That’s right. We have to be willing to be bored to enter into a creativity zone, a connection with other people zone, a zone of having our own uninterrupted thinking. As a culture we’ve gotten away from that and I think it does us all a disservice.

After reading Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zamorodi as well as Atomic Habits by James Clear I am even more convinced. (Disclaimer, I am not receiving any compensation from either of the authors I just really enjoyed their books and provide links for your convenience.) Both authors discuss the role of boredom in how we get hooked into habits. And to be sure we are quick to fill any empty space in our days as if we fear what we may find.

We also have to be willing to set limits on our use of technology. That can be a little more difficult if your work revolves around use of technology, but even then we can set some limits on what we are willing to allow. In limiting our reliance on technology we may also decrease our stress.

Try this:

The next time you find yourself with some alone time.

  • Try not being “connected” to your device.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off that audiobook and don’t reach for the radio or television.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Just be alone with your thoughts.
  • Look at what thoughts come up.
  • Do they have a theme?
  • When the 5 minutes are up take another 5 to write down what you noticed.

If you find you are having difficult thoughts try looking at a previous post on thoughts, feelings and behaviors here.

You can also take 5 minutes and do the exercise in the post 5 minute stress management here.

What happened with your stress levels when you spent some time disconnected from technology?

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

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Over Scheduling Increases Stress.

Endless line of stacked rocks representing stress and overs scheduling.
Sometimes it seems as if our tasks will never end

We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to stress. In an effort to “cram it all in” we end up missing out on the joy of our lives. Over scheduling ourselves can increase our stress significantly. It’s also a tough habit to kick. But reining in the tendency to fall into the over scheduling habit will yield huge benefits down the road.

Over scheduling ourselves is more than just a thing people say, it shows up in our behavior as well. When you overdo you rob yourself of precious sleep, leisure time, and time to devote to optimal self care. Which increases the stress you feel. Striving to get just one more (insert your favorite widget or task here) done ends up being a cycle that seems like it will never end. Choosing to stress ourselves can have huge impacts on our ability to stay present and engaged in our lives. Life is too short to wade through it only half present.

Manoush Zomorodi devoted an entire book–Bored and Brilliant: How spacing out can unlock your most productive and creative self-– to dealing with a kind of over scheduling that takes the form of the addiction to devices and the internet sweeping our society. She shows how our tendency to “never be bored” or have a second unfilled is actually hurting us in ways we are only starting to recognize. You can find her book here. (I give this link only as a help to you, I am not receiving any monies from Amazon or Manoush.)

What can we do?

How do we step away, say no to things we may really want in order to have a more peaceful life? One step at a time. The habits you have today are not going to be changed overnight, but to be sure they can be changed.

Become more aware.

The first step in this process is to become more aware of what you are doing. I like diagrams. I think they are very illuminating. Sit down and write a list of all the things you’d like get done on the average day. Make it an exhaustive list.

Now sit down and consider the following

  • How many hours a day must you work?
  • How many hours of sleep do you need a day?
  • Do you have other people depending on you?
  • Do you have others who take care of repetitive life tasks for you?

If you are like me you have to work and likely those shifts are at least 8 hours. Ideally most adult people require about 8 house to be at their best. Yes, I know many people are not sleeping that amount. That’s likely why many people are in sleep debt, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Unless you live on Venus you have a 24 hour day. Given the information above that gives you just 8 hours to do all the life stuff apart from work and sleep. Grab your list. what is the likelihood that you will be able to get it all completed? You’re going to have to make some choices.

Pleasing versus planning

Take a look at your list. How many of the things on the list are things you might not really want to do, but are doing just to please someone else? I’m not saying that pleasing others is a bad thing, but if you are burning the candle at both ends to make other people happy you may find you are increasing your stress. Since we are talking about reducing stress looking at your habits is a great starting place. If you are a people pleaser it is often easy to say “yes” to requests before thinking about what that “yes” means to your schedule. I know this has been true for me.

So what now?

Once you are aware of it, you can begin to change it. That said if you start saying no to everything others want you to do you may find you are not only stressed, but lonely as well. Change is imperative and can be accomplished more easily than we sometimes believe.

Look

Look at your list and jot down how long each one of those items takes for you to do. You might be surprised that you are trying to pack a lot into your day and this could be increasing your stress.

  • Take a good hard look at those items
    • What are they?
    • Who do they benefit?
    • How likely are you to get them done today?
  • Determine for yourself which are the non-negotiable things on the list.
    • Things that if you don’t do them you will sacrifice a big chunk of your happiness.
    • Taking care of your kids.
    • Spending quality time with your partner.

Ask Yourself

Ask yourself the following questions about each item.

  • How much does getting this done affect my life?
  • Will someone else be harmed if I don’t do this?
  • What sacrifice do I need to make to do this?
  • Is sacrificing something to get this done worth it in the scope of my life?
  • Do I need help?

Put it on the Clock

Empty clock face to plot your activities. To determine the amount of stress you may be under.
Plot all the activities you have for the day.


When you start to put in all the activities you have on your list PLUS work and sleep hours, you may start to see a problem. It may be at this point that you will being to loosen your grip on all you want to cram in. You may even start to consider asking for help.

Round pie graph. Plotting activities to show how much time in the day. Helps to determine stress levels.

That one 33% wedge of the pie is often much too small to cram all the things we want to get accomplished done. At this point we are tempted to start doubling up on activities and not really being present for either.

STOP, Look, and chose a different approach. Start scheduling yourself more realistically and dare to be truly present in your activities. I think you’ll find you are much less stressed and much happier to boot.

You can review 5 Minute Stress Management here.

What strategies work best for you?

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Relationships and Stress: It’s about you.

Tree with swollen trunk. Sometimes we feel out of sorts when our relationships are out of sync.
When relationships having you feeling yucky.

Relationships come in many forms, work relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships to name a few. When one of these is out of balance we can feel our stress increase.

Knowing your specific needs within relationships will help to guide you in keeping all of your relationships healthy.

First it’s a good idea to determine who, what, why, and where. Well not exactly in that order. Start by considering WHAT you want from various relationships. Then consider WHO you want to provide those aspects. Keeping in mind that no one person can fulfill all your relationship needs. Look also at WHY those aspects are important to you. And WHERE does this relationship most impact you (home, work, social?).

Start with an exercise

In this exercise you map out the various relationships in your life to determine the number and closeness of the various relationships in your life.

Start by taking a blank piece of paper and draw 4 concentric circles like this:

circle exercise

In the middle circle you put yourself. Then consider all the relationships in your life and start to place them in the circles based on how close they are to you and how much trust you have in them.

Types of Relationships

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
  • Co-workers
  • Friendships
  • Pets
  • People you see routinely, but don’t necessarily do things with.
  • Lover, partner, husband, wife

Just doing the exercise may help you to consider who you find most trustworthy and who you find difficult to trust. Also consider the last time you had a conflict with each of the individuals on your map.

When relationships are out of sync what can you do?

Remember the only parts within your control are your parts.

When you begin to identify that one of your relationships is out of sync. Sit down and start to look at what the issues seem to be coming up most often between you and that person. Look at the earlier post 5 minute stress management to determine what is within your control and what belongs to others. Once you figure out what is coming from your side of the relationship you can start to make changes.

By looking at your overall stress management you will begin to see some recurring themes in your thoughts. Check those thoughts and correct any that are distorted. By correcting those distortions you may be able to alleviate a lot of the stress you feel, by simply thinking more clearly.

If difficulties remain after you have completed this step then it may be time to talk to the other person. By talking to the other person about what is stressing you and why you may find information on the issue you haven’t considered which can help your stress levels decrease. Review the earlier post thoughts, feelings, and behaviors here.

Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

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Welcome to The Stress Nest

This is a blog dedicated to stress management.

Thanks for dropping by.

While stress management is a term that can mean many things, it is my hope that I can boil it all down and present easy to follow methods that you can try out in your own life.

Within these pages we will look at what stress is and how we can better manage stress to reach goals or just plain relax. You might wonder how stress can be “managed”, don’t we just want to rid ourselves of stress and be done with it? Well the simple answer is…Yes…..and…NO. While stress is often seen as something bad we just want to get rid of, we also need stress in our lives to help motivate us to reach our goals. That’s right stress–in the right amounts– can actually help us! But overdo it and you can be stressed out and your productivity will suffer.

You may have dropped by because you are overwhelmed with stress and wanting to find a way to decrease the stress in your life so you can be more productive and happier. Or you may just have been intreaged by the name. Whatever the reason, WELCOME!

Prepare for a journey that just may change your life for the better.

Why should you listen to me? Good question.

For the past 15 years I have been helping people to look at their lives and make changes that actually improve their lives. As a nurse practitioner in the mental health field I have years of experience in helping people to identify what is stressing them and set goals to address those areas and alleviate the negative impacts of stress while holding on to the beneficial aspects.

Take some time to look around. I’m glad you decided to come by.

I plan to provide new content weekly since I am still working a regular job. I am hoping to tailor material based on feedback so please feel free to leave comments.

Have a great day –Lynda

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Please follow and like us:at thestressnest.com
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