Reduce Your Stress

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Part 1 in a Special Health Series on NurseZone

By Holly Mosier, health expert and author of Stress Less, Weigh Less

February 16, 2012 - It wasn’t until I turned 40 ten years ago, and hit my wall, that I began searching for the answer to why we tend to gain weight and lose energy as we age. I knew I was constantly stressed--I was a medical malpractice trial attorney, wife, mother and stepmom--but it took several years of intense research before I realized that all those nasty changes we attribute to aging were mainly caused by unrelenting stress. 

Author Holly Mosier found that simple ways of reducing stress, such as opting out of too many activities, can lead to a number of positive health changes.

Armed with that knowledge, I switched my focus from constant dieting to exploring stress reduction methods. Ultimately, I had to develop my own stress-reduction tools; ones that could fit into my typical, busy life in a reasonable way.  Once I mastered a few of these easy tools, it was as if I had discovered gold. Within days, my stress reduced, my energy returned to the level I enjoyed as a kid, and what do you know? My unrelenting appetite normalized, and my cravings dissipated. It turns out that the stress hormones (like cortisol) cause a very real physiological craving for high-fat, high- sugar, high-sodium foods--all those high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks that sabotage our best efforts to live more healthfully. 

If I had known years ago what I know now, I first would have addressed the factors causing my unmitigated stress before attempting to alter how I was eating and exercising. Had I done so, I would have found both my mind and my body much more receptive to the diet and exercise changes that were required to finally get the results I had been seeking for decades. 

I’ll be bringing you articles over the next four weeks so you can take the same steps in the order that I found works like magic. We’ll start by addressing stress management this week. Nursing is stressful; today, you are going to get some immediate relief! Then next week, we’ll proceed to my easy dietary changes. The week after, I’ll share what I discovered to be the most effective and efficient ways to exercise. And lastly, I’ll introduce you to my easy, 5-ingredient-or-less healthy recipes so you can make a quick, delicious and filling meal even after a 12-hour shift.

Set the Foundation:  Opt Out as a Lifestyle

No matter how many stress-management tools I had at my disposal, I learned they do not compensate for a schedule with too many things to do and not enough time in which to do them. I was constantly battling a voracious appetite brought on by the stress hormones.

What to do? “Opt out” as a lifestyle. Evaluate activities, choose what works for your life, and do only those things. Learn to say no to demands, requests, invitations, and activities that leave you with no time for yourself. Until I learned to say no--and mean it--I was always overloaded by stress. 

I now build space into my daily schedule. It may be only a few minutes here, 10 minutes there, but I refuse to schedule things back-to-back without a buffer of time in between so I can just breathe. Which brings me to the next tool…

Four-Count Breath

Once you have opted out and made your schedule more manageable, you’re ready for stress tools. I know we are all still busy, so I’ll give you my quickest and most potent tool for reducing stress: The Four-Count Breath. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and it never fails to restore calm and equanimity. Try it before--and after--entering a difficult patient’s room. 

Here’s how it is done. Close your eyes (if you can). Breathe in through your nose to the count of four. Now exhale through your nose to the count of four. Repeat this pattern for at least five breaths.

That’s all there is to it. I do this throughout the day, every day, and it keeps me in a calm and serene state of mind. If you train yourself to make it a habit, whenever anything stressful happens, instead of blindly reacting, you’ll go to your breath. From that calm place, you’ll assess situations more accurately, make better decisions, and be able to take more effective action. 

About the Author:
Holly Mosier is a healthy-life expert and author of Stress Less, Weigh Less, as well as a lawyer, business owner, mother and wife. 

See all four articles in this special health series on NurseZone:

Part 1: Reduce Your Stress

Part 2: Revamp the Way You’re Eating

Part 3: Revamp the Way You’re Exercising 

Part 4: Easy, Healthy Recipes (Five Ingredients or Less!)

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