By Kathy Parry
Imagine you go for a peaceful walk in the woods. The air is slightly crisp, sky is blue, and you feel calm enjoying the outdoors. Then you see it. In the path just ahead. A bear. And he just made eye contact with you.
Immediately your body goes into full-blown stress mode. Your calm disposition is now a life-saving venture. A cascade of hormones is released to change your body’s physiology to help you either fight the bear or take flight from him. Because you are now a fighting or flighting machine, other systems in your body do not work as well.
You will not be digesting your food properly when the bear chases you.
You will not sleep well when the bear chases you.
Your immunity functions become less efficient when the bear chases you.
Your body will tell you to store fat when the bear chases you.
Your heart rate rises and creates increased stress on your cardiac system when the bear chases you.
But you may be saying, “there is no bear. I work at a desk. It is busy season and I’m safe here with my computer.” But are you?
If you’re like most CPAs, your profession creates a season when many of you are highly stressed. The problem is, unlike the bear who eventually walked off the path, your stress can persist for days or weeks. The elevated stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol can create unhealthy scenarios like heartburn and indigestion, poor sleep, high blood pressure, weight gain, and eventually can end up burning out your adrenal system to the point of exhaustion.
But because busy season isn’t going to calmly walk away, here are a few tips to manage stress a bit better:
1. Breathe deep throughout your day: By taking 5-10 deep breaths you tell your body the stressful situation has left. Your body will begin to drop the adrenaline levels.
2. Eat immunity-boosting foods: When your body is in a stressed-out state, your immunity functions are compromised (remember everything is prepared to fight the bear, not a cold) Top immunity-boosting foods: garlic, mushrooms, leafy greens, green tea, coconut oil, and water, water, water!
3. Plan for stress: You know it’s coming. Ask yourself a few questions before busy season:
What situations may arise that will cause me stress?
Am I the only one who can take care of that or is there someone to help me?
What is my typical reaction to a stressful event?
How could I react differently so that my stress levels wont’ rise?
4. Skip the stress eating: Be honest, in the question above did you list “eat something” under typical reaction? For many Americans this is a very common reaction to stress. We often head for something sweet. But beware; sugar gives your body a pleasure signal, thus giving a false signal that you aren’t stressed. But sugar does not do the body any good. If you are going to stress eat, make sure there are some healthy options around like an apple, carrots, or almonds.
5. Get back on the trail: Hitting the trail, path, or sidewalk (preferably one out of bear territory) is one of the best ways to reduce the dangerous effects stress has on the body. A brief walk in the middle of the day, even around inside, has a wonderful way of bringing stress under control.
So, if you feel the bear about ready to charge this busy season, think about what is happening in your body. It can take weeks or months to recover from the damage done by functioning in a stressed-out state. But only a few minutes to employ stress-fighting tactics.
Kathy Parry, Corporate Energy Expert, helps maxed-out professionals become more energetic and resilient during transitional or disruptive events. Learn more at: www.KathyParry.com