15 Ways to Fight Stress

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Do I need to
really even say the holidays are a stressful time of year? Every
lifestyle blog, magazine, evening news program, and newspaper will
have a stress-related feature right about now. I bet Dr. Oz has
a “holiday stress relief” show airing. It’s part of the culture
— we expect holiday stress and seem to love wallowing in it. So
I’m not going to go on and on about how stress is a problem, or
even why it’s a problem (I’ve already
done that
), because we know it. So, how do we avoid it and,
once it’s here, how do we deal with it? That’s the important part.
How do we hack it?

Well, we don’t
want to hack it all to pieces. We need stress, too — just not too
much. It bears mentioning that many things can be considered stressors
depending on the context. Lifting heavy things is a stressor, and
the right amount causes muscles, connective tissue, and bones to
respond by getting stronger, which are desirable; too much, or too
little recovery, and muscles, connective tissue, and bones suffer
and atrophy, which is undesirable. It’s about context, quantity,
and quality. With that in mind, I’m going to break down anti-stress
strategies into categories.

Fortify

An ounce of
prevention is worth… you know the saying. Just as Batman depends
on extensive amounts of prep-time to defeat his often-physically
superior opponents, our bodies do best when we lay a strong foundation
before stress hits. That means:

Brace for
the Punch

Stress will
come. It cannot be avoided. Accept this. In my experience if you
don’t and then stress comes it will hit you harder than if you had
accepted its inevitability. How you think about stress affects and
even determines how it’s expressed in your physiology. So
flex those abs and prepare for the inevitable shot to your groin.

Plan

We talk a lot
about fractals
and randomness
, but there’s nothing wrong with a little order
in your life, especially if you’re worried about family-related
stress. I personally hate flying by the seat of my pants if large
groups are involved; I like knowing what we’re doing, with whom
we’re doing it, and when it’s going to happen. If things
have the potential for spiraling out of control, make a schedule
to minimize the guesswork.

Balance Your
Omega 6 to Omega 3 Fatty Acid Intake

Our bodies
use the PUFAs
we eat to manufacture inflammatory cytokines, which are part of
the stress response. If the ratio is all out of whack, the response
to stressors will be overly inflammatory. An
overabundance of omega-6 fats
, for example, will produce an
overabundance of IL-6, one of the premier inflammatory stress-response
cytokines that’s potent in small doses but overwhelming in large
doses. Avoid industrial seed oils, vegetable oils, and try
to eat fatty fish. Take fish oil, and favor pastured animal products
over CAFO products.

Go Primal.
Yesterday.

Being healthier,
stronger, fitter, and less metabolically deranged will prepare your
body for the coming onslaught, and going Primal is the best way
to become those things. Ditch the grains,
legumes,
sugar,
and seed oils
if you haven’t already; start a resistance
training
and sprinting
regimen
to build
up those muscles and organ reserves
, because you’re gonna need
them; start a normal, healthy
sleep schedule
. You’ve been mulling it over in your
head for weeks now, but it’s time to just do it and go Primal already.

Avoid

Avoiding unnecessary
and excessive stress is the best way, but it’s also the trickiest.
Oh, I suppose we could go Thoreau and become hermits to avoid social
stress, but then we’d go crazy from isolation stress. Let’s explore
some effective, realistic strategies for stress avoidance.

Know Your
Limits, and Hold Yourself to Them

Man is finite.
We can’t be everywhere at once. Be honest with yourself when apportioning
your time. You probably can’t wrap up work by noon, have two lunch
meetings, pick up groceries, prepare a five course meal, then meet
up with friends for drinks all in a single day without driving yourself
mad from the stress of it all. But if you’re honest about your limits
from the very start, you won’t have failed, and there will be no
stress — because you never convinced yourself the impossible could
be done in the first place. Don’t overcommit!

Opt for Acute,
Rather Than Chronic Stress

We’re built
to handle acute stress. Things like animal attacks, natural disasters,
confrontations on the street — these are examples of acute stressors.
They may not be pleasant, per se, but they make us feel alive. Time
slows down, your senses hone in, and you just tough it out. But
what about sitting in traffic for two hours every day on the way
to and from work? It’s not exciting. It’s mind numbing chronic stress
that drives you insane. I’m not asking you to go get mugged or wrestle
with a mountain lion; I’m saying instead of sitting around the house
or battling the holiday crowds, go for a hike. Head
off trail
and climb
some boulders
. Get dirty and don’t shy away from rough terrain.
Shock your system with those real-world, in-your-face acute
stressors, instead of submitting to chronic stress.

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