This podcast episode will offer you the top 3 ways to control your stress (and cortisol) so you can control your life.
This article will offer you the top 3 ways to control your stress (and cortisol) so you can control your life. I’ve been speaking with many health practitioners, and hospital administrators, over the last few week.
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I’ve been speaking with many health practitioners, and hospital administrators, over the last few week. They all seem to be wondering the same things – how to keep their staff healthy and free of burnout. Now, more than ever, with COVID-19 taking over everyone’s thoughts, you need to keep your stress under control so it doesn’t start to control you.
First and foremost, let’s cover the 3 common reasons health practitioners have stress that leads them to burnout:
1. too big of a workload.
2. family and personal lives are challenged due to job.
3. employment doesn’t allow them enough time outside of work to recover.
And if you’re working in the health care system through this COVID-19 pandemic, I bet you’re stressed to the max. If you know you’re heading towards burnout, and you’ve been working many shifts back-to-back to cover your colleagues sick time, then it’s really really critical to get a handle on these thought patterns and make a decision to stress-proof your life. But you can’t do it all without really understanding what’s happening inside your body – and how cortisol is really impacting you. Once you understand what I’m going to teach you today, you’ll be ready to start implementing some initiatives to decrease burnout from a physiological standpoint.
Here’s the thing, cortisol is a stress hormone that’s secreted by the adrenal glands. Cortisol affects every area of your life. If you can reduce your cortisol and strategically manage your stress, then you can help manage the amount of cortisol your adrenals secrete.
If you can protect your body from the effects of stress, and slow down your adrenals from pumping out too much cortisol, you will find that you feel you have better emotional regulation. This control of cortisol secretion allows you to be in control of your life circumstances.
Here are the Top 3 Ways To Control Your Stress (even amidst an epidemic)
#1 – Get a good night’s sleep
Cortisol levels, and stress, can be easily affected by missing a good night’s sleep so it’s important to learn how to manage your thoughts, emotions and body in order to self-regulate.
Self-regulation is a generic term for the voluntary management of physical, cognitive and emotional processes (Rheme & Rokke, 1988). In essence, we’re talking about applying cognitive-behavioural strategies to our awareness – which can also be referred to as mindfulness.
But many are actively missing the cues to getting a good night’s sleep. In order to really pay attention to what the body is doing, shut-off the technology a little sooner than you normally would, to prepare your body for sleep. And if you’re working shifts, ditch the coffee after your shift and switch it up for a dark room and some melatonin. If you still have trouble once your head hits the pillow, use your phone for the sake of sleep….and find a good sleep meditation, with affirmations, that might help induce a sleep state.
And remember to plan your next day off around getting a good night’s sleep to stress-proof your body and mind.
If you want to dig a bit further into the issue of getting better sleep, head over to this article here.
#2 Do daily exercise
This is a scientifically based strategy I’m giving you here – workout…life some weights, go for a walk, exercise in any way that you can. Use the stairs at work.
Cortisol and insulin are closely related. When the body is stressed, you want sugar, but a spike in sugar affects your insulin. There is a direct correlation between people who exercise regularly and reduced levels of anxiety vs those who don’t exercise.
Exercise also improves sleep because you burn off all that extra “nonsense” when you’re working out. You just “work out” the kinds of your mind which helps you get better sleep and reduce your stress.
#3 – Take deep breaths on a consistent basis.
This might sound too overly simplistic to work but sometimes it’s the simple things that make all the difference in the world (see episode 30 on finding joy in the simple things). And I know you’ve heard of this strategy before, and probably used it with your patients on the unit. Now I want you to try it for 10 days in a row. All you need is two minutes a day for ten days. No more and no less.
Here it goes:
Carve out two minutes first thing in the morning and BREATHE DEEPLY. If you want to roll your eyes and dismiss this… take a step back first…
Here’s the thing, even The Navy Seals use this technique to remain calm and focused even when in the midst of intense drills.
Yes, they too rely on their breath-work training… and part of their training is to “hack” their focus using a specific breathing technique.
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Essentially, being proactive when you’re off work is the perfect way to strategically manage your stress and mitigate these stressors. Get out for a walk to fit in some exercise, be more intentional about the foods you eat to boost your brain power instead of weighing you down. Ditch the sugar!
Plan fun activities when you’re off work, so you know what fun things lie ahead. And remember to take control over your body by paying attention to your thoughts because our thoughts are energy projected to create our reality. If you are worried about catching a cold or a virus, you might just find yourself connecting with that energy. Instead, focus on the positive ways you are taking action to improve your immune system and your mood.