Stress is a lot like a snowball. One worry can grow to two and the next thing you know, your head is swirling with a thousand worries. Suddenly, you’re feeling so stressed out you can’t sleep, your muscles are tense, and your mood is suffering.
This snowball effect happens because your brain and body need time to recover from one stressful assault before handling the next. If you’ve had a stressful day at work, your car breaks down on the way home, and you come home to a sick pet, chances are that your head is going to be spinning with worries when you try to go to sleep at night. You haven’t had time to process the stress you encountered at work, much less everything else that happened in your day. Stress “wear and tear” accumulates.
Yet, life happens. You can’t control a bad day or how many stressful events pile up on top of one another. So, what can you do?
You can become more resilient to stress by proactively “filling up your tank.” Taking care of your mind and body can make you more ready for stress when it happens. So, let’s get you a fill up.
Take out a pen and paper and make a list of all the activities in your life that make you feel good. “Good” can mean different things – it can mean full of energy, well-rested, intellectually stimulated, loved…you name it. If something elicits a positive emotion in you, write it down. Spending time with your children, gardening, walking the dog, cooking for your family, watching a movie, and going to the farmer’s market are all things that might make the list.
Now you know the things that fill up your tank. You know that the more you engage in these activities, the better you’ll feel. So, next Saturday instead of skipping the farmer’s market to clean the house, you’ll know that going on this outing is important to your well-being. When you are proactive about doing the things that make you feel good, you’ll be more resilient to stress the next time it comes your way. And luckily for you, resilience to stress helps keep your brain healthy.