We understand that not every single day of your life feels like a walk in the park, and that's it's normal to feel anxious, complacent, and scared sometimes. In fact, these feelings are preferable, because they force you to grow as a person.
Spartans are masters at being resilient and tough, staying calm, and remaining upbeat. So while it's easy to let our emotions get the best of us at times, it's important to remember that sometimes things are out of your control, and the only thing you can control is yourself.
To help ease your mind whenever you need it, we reached out to a handful of some of the world's top experts in psychology, leadership, health, and wellness to provide tips on how to manage your daily life — both mentally and physically.
All of the following experts were first interviewed on an episode of the Spartan Up! podcast, which you can listen to here.
- Dr. Paul Kilgore is an expert on infectious diseases and the owner of quantitative-health.com.
- Johnny Waite is a philosopher, hypnotherapist, and a former guest on the Spartan Up Podcast.
- Anthony Trucks is a former NFL athlete, an American Ninja Warrior competitor, a gym owner, and the founder of Identity Shift.
- Mike Bledsoe is the CEO of Strong Coach, a program for personal and professional development for coaches.
- Sarah Lipton is an innovative leadership expert and the founder of Genuine. You can learn more about Sarah on her website.
Dr. Lara Pence, aka the Spartan Mind Doc, is a licensed clinical psychologist and the host of the podcast, Spartan Mind.
7 Tips for Staying Calm in Times of High Stress
1. Keep Training
Don't let anything throw you off of your training.
"Unless you're sick, staying on your program will prevent you from backsliding," Kilgore says. "It'll also help you reduce mental stress and help strengthen your immune system."
2. Get More Rest
"Getting enough rest is key," Kilgore says. "It'll help you recover from hard training and keep your immune system strong, and you're going to need that to fight off infections, especially in the colder months of the year."
Far too many people, Trucks adds, don't focus enough on their sleep quantity and quality.
"For me, it's just as important to set an alarm to let me know when to go to bed as well as when to wake up," he says.
3. Be Clean, Please
Another key, Kilgore says, is to always practice the easily controllable variables that help keep you healthy every day.
"Wash your hands regularly, use hand sanitizer, don't shake hands with anyone, and cover your mouth — every time — whenever you cough or sneeze," he says. "This goes for at home, at work, and at the gym."
4. Grow, Don't Shrink
Even when you're busy and feeling overwhelmed, try not to put things off that matter to you.
"If you can't go to the gym, what you can do is finally learn how to do bodyweight workouts," he says. "If you don't have time to travel and try new restaurants, take that busy time to cook and put healthy food in your body and save some money.
"Those people who you say are the most important people in your life, make time to spend time with them. Learn that skill, read that novel, fix that leaky faucet. Grow instead of shrinking."
5. Manage Your Mind
"The number one threat to your immune system is stress," Bledsoe says. "Stress comes in many forms, including physical, mental, and emotional stress. They all manifest physically, but managing them is non-physical."
For this, Bledsoe likes to use the body-mind story cycle. Here are the steps:
- Notice whenever you're breathing shallowly into your chest, not your belly. Take a few minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly into your belly, as if you're filling up your entire body.
- Once you've gained control of your breathing, ask yourself what was on your mind. "For beginners, a journal comes in handy here," Bledsoe says.
- "Now that you've identified the stressor, ask yourself, 'Is this true?'" Bledsoe says. It's possible that your imagination could just be running away from itself. You'll know that it's your imagination if you're dwelling on something that happened in the past, or if you're hyper-focused on something that may or may not happen in the future. "Walk yourself through what's true about this scenario," Bledsoe says. "Ask yourself if there are other perspectives. Ask yourself if you have all of the information. And ask yourself if breathing shallowly is making your life better or worse. See your thoughts for what they are."
We touched on this above as part of Bledsoe's body-mind story cycle, but it's an important enough function that it warrants its own tip.
"The breath not only neurologically allows us to settle, but it also brings the body back home to itself," Lipton says. "Find somewhere where you can get away for a moment and breathe. This settles the mind and allows us to gain familiarity with what we're experiencing from an emotional and physical standpoint. It also allows us to settle down a bit."
This, Lipton says, gives us deeper access to our wisdom. As a result, you may have a revelation as simple as realizing that all the information you're absorbing day to day may be doing you more harm than good, and that you'd be better off breathing or meditating for a few minutes alone.
7. Establish a Morning Routine
"Everyone should create a morning routine that addresses your brain, body, and best next step," Pence says. Your routine only has to be five minutes, so you don't have any reason not to try this tip. Here's how to address those three key points:
- Your body: According to Pence, you can drink a glass of water, stretch for one or two minutes, or even do 20 burpees. The activity doesn't have to be complicated.
- Your brain: Journal for a minute, repeat your mantra, or even do a minute of meditation on the Headspace app.
- Your best next step: Amid this uneasy climate, Pence says that it's a good idea to think deeply about what your next move of the day should be. "Should you grab your phone as soon as you wake up and take in more of what's making you anxious? Probably not," she says. "Should you go outside and take a few deep breaths of fresh air. Probably."