Fighting the Stress Monster

Hi guys! How’s your morning going?? Hope you all had a wonderful weekend <3

For those of you who are catching up in the blogworld today, I’m chilling in Orlando for the week! Glorious.

Since many of you are tackling the end of the semester, dealing with work overload or may have other things going on, I figured it’d be interesting to do a post on *stress* and how to fight it [like a ninja].

stressed_girl (Source)

So what exactly is stress?

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.

When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rouse the body for emergency action.

Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.

Things that influence your stress tolerance level
  • Your support network – A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
  • Your sense of control – If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stress in stride. People who are vulnerable to stress tend to feel like things are out of their control.
  • Your attitude and outlook – Stress-hardy people have an optimistic attitude. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, accept that change is a part of life, and believe in a higher power or purpose.
  • Your ability to deal with your emotions. You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or afraid. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity. 
  • Your knowledge and preparation – The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.


Stress can be brought on by external factors (life changes, work, family, relationship problems, financial difficulties) and internal factors (pessimism, unrealistic expectations, negative self-talk and perfectionism).

Some types of stress are actually *good*– these are the little inklings that light a fire in our pants, make us work a little harder and cause anticipation and drive. An example is a realistic work deadline, sales incentive, upcoming presentation or test, working to achieve a personal goal (like fitness, etc), or a fun event (like a wedding!). This is the type of stress that many people thrive with, my self included.

Bad types of stress can make you feel horrible, sick and anxious. Not only does unmanaged bad stress wear you down, it can also cause a lot of physical symptoms and health problems including:



-Lack of sleep

-Autoimmune disease

-Heart disease

-Skin conditions

-Digestive problems

I know that many of you ladies (and men!) out there are likely caught up with Superwoman Syndrome (or superman syndrome) and feel the need to do it all and do it perfectly, which in itself can cause a TON of unnecessary stress. To keep stress at bay, here are some of my favorite tips for managing stress:

(Note: The tips are just for guidance. If you’re experiencing an intense amount of stress, please seek help and always check with a doctor before making any changes to your diet or fitness routine).

1. Have a plan. Since my schedule is crazyhectic, every day I jot down an idea of what the plan is for the day. I know that it may not work out according to schedule (it rarely does), but knowing that I do indeed have time to do the things I need to accomplish keeps me from thinking about it all day.


2. Schedule time for YOU. Book some relaxation time each day, whether it’s meeting a friend for coffee, taking a long walk with the puppers, watching your favorite TV show, getting your nails done, or even if it’s just 5 minutes of meditation or dancing around to your favorite song. Having “me” time can give you extra oomph (and sanity) to tackle what you need to do.


3. Reach out to your personal network. Stress is a beast, but it’s even more beastly when you’re at it alone. Talk to your friends, family, hubby or cat and see if there’s a way they could lend a hand with your to-do’s on a busy day. Whenever the some of the wives have a doctor’s appointment, another wife will go babysit the kids for them, so they don’t have to tote the gang to the doc’s office. Or if one of us is going to Publix or the mall, Jeni and I will usually text eachother to see if we need anything since it’s on the other side of town.


4. Exercise! Ya’ll know I love me some exercise, but the #1 reason why I love it so much is because of stress management. Exercise releases those awesome feel-good endorphins and for me, makes any mountain much more climb-able 😉 Yes, I workout to maintain my weight loss and for health and heart benefits, but I mostly work out because it makes me feel SO dang good. In undergrad, when I had a looming test (especially for accounting 400C… half the class failed, and the other half got C’s….), I made sure to take a long walk at the park, mall or Target the day before the test, even when I needed to study my face off. It made me feel so much better and got rid of a huge portion of the anxiety.


5. Pay attention to NOW. It’s really easy to get caught up in what’s to come, instead of what’s going on at the present moment. Thinking about the future, near or far, can cause a lot of anticipation of the unknown and additional stress. Worry about *right now* and do the best you can do *right now*. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Meditation and yoga have been extremely helpful in bringing me back to the present and honestly, so can meals. I love to take a meal and savor it, from the preparation to the actual feasting. Try to add in some yoga or just take some time to literally smell the roses 🙂

beach (2)

6. Eat well.  Stress releases cortisol, which for many, can cause intense cravings for salty and sweet foods. This is from back in the day, where impending danger (like a cold winter) would cause stress and encourage people to stock up on food so they wouldn’t starve. Food isn’t scarce today, so stress can cause emotional eating, which can often lead to weight gain. Make sure to have a stash of healthy foods in the house, so if your stress levels cause a jump in the munch-meter, you have a healthy option to roll with.


7. Get your zzzzzz’s. Lack of sleep can increase stress hormones, which is another reason why it’s so important to get enough shut-eye. An hour before bed, I’ll usually have some tea (I love Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea) and then get into bed a half hour before I actually want to go to sleep. I’ll spray the pillows  with lavender pillow spray and read for a half hour until I’m ready for bed. Nixing out afternoon caffeine and light stretching before bed (like’s Lunar Yoga podcast) can help, too. 027

Those are my favorite tips and have definitely helped me to make the switch from stress monkey –I used to be an entirely different person, no joke- to a little more mellow yellow 😉

Am I missing anything??

How do you fight stress like a ninja? Anything from the above list that you’re working on??

Have a great day bloggies, I’m off to do some cardio, hitting up Millenia Mall and then helping my little coz with algebra 🙂



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  1. MelissaNibbles on April 5, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Great post! I think planning and taking time for yourself are the best ways to beat stress. Have a great week!

  2. Allie (Live Laugh Eat) on April 5, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I definitely hit up the gym when I’m stressed. Although it doesn’t get my work done for me, it makes me a wee bit less craaaazy craze. I feel refreshed and ready to focus afterwards….most of the time 🙂

  3. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman on April 5, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I’m chronically stressed out. I think it’s the whole Type A thing. I’m pretty horrible at managing it, but I’ve found that by having some me time after dinner and before bed, I’m much more relaxed. That, and creating countless to-do lists. The very act of crossing something off de-stresses me a bit. (Which is why I add pointless items like, “Make a to-do list.”)

    • Fitnessista on April 5, 2010 at 9:58 am

      TOTAL type a, too. i think a lot of the blogworld is! otherwise, why would we add another thing to our already-packed schedules?? 🙂
      making lists helps me SO much, too but i haven’t made one that says “make to-do list”, haha.

  4. Stephanie on April 5, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for this timely post Gina!! Heading into finals in my 2L year of law school and starting to really feel the anxiety. I am trying to get back into my workout schedule, which has been totally derailed since spring break and this post was *just* the booster I needed. THANK YOU!

  5. Sana on April 5, 2010 at 9:59 am

    This is perfect! I have two exams this week! Stress OVERLOAD! I am try to stay POSITIVE and remind myself that I CAN DO THIS!

  6. Shelly on April 5, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Great tips! I used to have a lot of problems with stress (and of course, I still stress occasionally, like everyone)and I also have an anxiety disorder- but over the years (and with the help of some excellent therapy) I’ve learned how to manage it really well. I do all of the things you listed above and I have to second you that exercise is HUGE in terms of things that keep me happy and sane. When I can’t work out for a week or two (like if I’m sick) I don’t worry about getting fat or out of shape- I just tend to feel really lousy and am on a constant emotional roller coaster when I don’t have my regular dose of endorphins. 🙂
    The other thing that I do is try to keep a really regular schedule. This is especially important in terms of going to bed at the same time every night (I’m a sleeping pro! I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow.) and eating at the same time every day. I’ve found that if I go too long between meals, even before I start feeling really hungry, I start feeling really upset and stressed out. Keeping myself full of satisfying, healthy foods goes a LONG way towards keeping me stress free and happy!

    • Fitnessista on April 5, 2010 at 10:02 am

      i’m right there with you on the exercise thing! during the hiatus, i didn’t care one bit about gaining weight.. i was just worried about my sanity! i felt HORRIBLE and so stressed out without exercise, because it really does make me feel amazing

      • brittney on April 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm

        I have never been able to work out with regularity UNTIL I did it for my brainz. 🙂

    • Lauren on April 5, 2010 at 11:10 am

      Oh I went through the same exact thing. Therapy helped me so much in realizing how to manage all the stress.

  7. laura on April 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

    hi Gina..
    i have a question, i would like to start study personal trainer, where i can go and find real information? there are a lot of websites but i am lost. i live in Tampa FL.

    • Fitnessista on April 5, 2010 at 10:05 am

      i highly recommend afaa or ace. check out their websites– for afaa you pay for the study material and then take a workshop and test, for ace you pay for the study material and take a test. their tests are offered on a pretty regular basis! hope this helps a little

  8. Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin on April 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Awesome tips you’ve got there! I just started a new thing today that I’m hoping I can stick with.. I did a 10 minute AM Yoga routine off exercise TV. It really helped me wake up and get centered and ready for the day. I am very new to yoga and mostly do running and/or weights for my workouts, so it felt nice to chill out and stretch!

  9. Jessica @ How Sweet on April 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Exercise is my main stress reliever! So is some nice meditation. 🙂

    • brittney on April 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm

      Ha, I thought you wrote “medication.” 🙂

  10. Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg on April 5, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Oh man, exercise is SO integral to my management of stress. Without exercise, I’m a HUGE ball of worry/stress/bad mood bear.

  11. Heather (Heather's Dish) on April 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

    haha,i think you pretty much covered all of the tips i would have…but my favorite is exercise as well. i try to make my exercise my “me” time as well – something about jogging alone on a beautiful day makes all the difference in the world!

  12. Pam on April 5, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Great post! Most of my stress comes from internal pressures–Type A personality here. Unfortunately, I also have a baaaaaddd tendency to procrastinate which results in mega stress when deadlines for school or work are really impending. I also sometimes let food and exercise stress me out because of my perfectionism. I’m getting better about that part–I keep reminding myself that running or the gym is something I GET to do, not that I HAVE to do, so I should just count my blessings and chillax. It gets to be a vicious cycle otherwise. It sounds cheesy, but positive self-talk really helps… even if I’m not feeling positive I “fake it” it until it becomes more natural.

  13. Sarah @ THE FOODIE DIARIES on April 5, 2010 at 10:38 am

    ooooh, millenia malll! <3

    i'm still definitely a stress monkey at times–but this AMAZING weather is making me a bit more mellow yellow 🙂

  14. Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter on April 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Wow really great tips!
    I deal with stress in similar ways that you do. Exercise is my favorite. When I get a stressed situation I immediately have to go running. Making a to-do list will really sort my mind and relieve myself that I won’t forget anything. I also take time in the mornings to make myself a good breakfast and do what I want to do before heading off to class, and also at night to watch TV or check my favorite blogs.

    And I spray my pillow with lavender too!

    Great post, I just love your blog 🙂

  15. Lauren @ Eater not a runner on April 5, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I agree that making time for exercise (and for yourself!) is always a great stress buster 🙂

  16. Jenn @ LiveWellFitNow on April 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Awesome list and great ideas!

    Two things that have helped me a lot with stress are relatively simple but bring BIG changes:

    1. BREATHE! When I get that overwhelmed, not-so-great, negative feeling…I try to stop myself and center my mind. I take a few deep breaths and choose how to react to a situation or my mood.

    2. Make small changes. When I wasn’t eating well or exercising or reaching out to friends…it was overwhelming thinking about how to go about making those changes all at once. I didn’t know where to start therefore I DIDN”T! Finally, I started small. And then the changes impacted my stress level that I kept doing more!

  17. Natalie @ Scarlett Notions on April 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I keep a notebook by my bed and do some free-form writing right before I go to sleep. I just write whatever comes into my head and instantly feel better!

  18. skinnyrunner on April 5, 2010 at 11:15 am

    exercise definitely helps release some stress for me too. great tips and info.

  19. Amara on April 5, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Thanks for this -great post!

  20. aneta on April 5, 2010 at 11:39 am

    this might be the most perfect and well timed post.
    i was just telling someone how stressed out i am. i am working full time and doing 2 courses for work, and have 2 exams tomorrow! I am getting a bit stressed and am trying to figure out how to deal with it. Even though going to the gym after work will take 2 hours (or so) out of my study time, I know that it is very needed!
    thnx for this post!
    have fun on ur vacay!!!

  21. Courtney on April 5, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Great post! I used to be generally stress free until I entered grad school. Now I am also I completely different person (but opposite of the direction that you went!). Making a list everyday really helps manage my stress a little better. Also, crying helps, too. I know that sounds weird but if I am really stressed out I take a few minutes to cry and I feel so much better. I exercise almost everyday and don’t really think of it as a stress reliever but I guess it is.

  22. Astrid on April 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Exercise helps so much. I knew today was going to be stressful, so at the end of my cardio, I did a nice 10 minutes of jogging and psrinting to get all the jitters out of my body. I think it did help tremendously. My main source of stress right now is not being happy with my research and not having a strong network of friends here in Texas. So I am doing what I can and trying to be optimistic!! This was good timing for this post, Gina!

  23. Katie @ Health for the Whole Self on April 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    One of the best stress management techniques I’ve learned is to stop for a mere five minutes and do a mini meditation. It can be as simple as deep breathing, or tensing and then relaxing your muscles. It’s amazing how slowing down and focusing on your body and your breath can ease anxiety.

  24. Mary @ What's Cookin' with Mary on April 5, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you for this post… Was nice to read this during this stressful morning I am having 🙂

  25. Emily on April 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    exercise is definitely my number one stress-fighter. I am trying to diversify my stress-fighting techniques though; I think it’s important to use different tools, not rely on one thing that inevitably becomes a crutch. to-do lists are crucial for me too. just seeing my tasks written down before me makes them a lot less overwhelming!

  26. Danielle (Coffee Run) on April 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for this post- it couldn’t have come at a better time 🙂 I also love exercise for stress reduction (except on rest days like today ughh)!

  27. Allison @ Food For Healing on April 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    i don’t deal with stress that well. So i am on some extra Vit B haha. soon enough ill learn for myself. once my life gets on the path that I want it to be on

  28. Cassie @ A Very Busy Mind on April 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Awesome post and very timely. The exercise thing is a BIGGY for me! Lately I’ve noticed that my bummed-out moods almost always correlate with too many skipped workouts.

    Another thing I really need to work on is letting go of all-or-nothing thinking. I can let the littlest thing derail my day because I want everything to be “perfect” and go according to plan. (For instance, I overslept this morning and it totally threw me off and put me in a bad mood. <– Dumb.) I need to work on re-framing things, and just doing the best I can in the present circumstances.

  29. elizabeth on April 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    excellent list gina!

  30. katherine on April 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Such great tips!! I manage my stress by listening to what my body truly needs. Sometimes I want to exercise just b/c I feel like I should, but sometimes my body just needs REST in order to deal with stress!

  31. borntocare on April 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    great tips! I can especially relate to exercising while in school/before a big exam– not only does it relieve stress, it improves my concentration!
    Have fun shopping!

  32. Kate @ Spoonful of Vigor on April 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Great post and suggestions! Another thing I’ve found to be really helpful to my patients who struggle with chronic stress (and sleep troubles!) is muscle relaxation and meditation. There are a ton of podcasts available online that provide you with various guided meditations.

  33. Paige (Running Around Normal) on April 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Great post. It helped me just as a refresher/reminder.

  34. Kilee on April 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Wow! What a great post! I think that so many of us don’t recognise the stress that we have in our lives, and end up creating other issues because we don’t combat our stress in a positive manner. One of the best techniques that I have learned is stepping back and asking myself, “Will this going to affect me tomorrow? Is it going to affect me a month from now? Is it going to affect me 5 years from now?” Usually whatever I am stressed out about will not have a large enough impact to affect me even 24 hours later. This helps me put things into perspective.

    I have also learned that if I don’t get my workout in the the am, I am usually super cranky by the pm.

    Have a great time today and thank you again for helping us with stress management!

  35. Megan @ Healthy Hoggin' on April 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    This is seriously a timely post! Although I’m done with school and the stress of finals, my Type-A personality leaves me feeling stressed often! This morning was an especially stressful one for me (maybe the worst ever!) so you must have read my mind! Ha ha.

    I backed away from the sweets, and did some deep breathing instead. 😉

    Naps are usually my stress-fighter of choice, but since sometimes that isn’t an option, sipping on a hot beverage and taking a little mental “time-out” does the trick for me, too.

  36. Dee on April 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    What a great post! I’m going have to keep re-reading this when things get out of control.

  37. Jenny on April 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks lady! I needed this today:)

  38. Katie on April 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    This is a great post!

  39. JenSanders52 on April 5, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Exercise definitely helps me to relieve stress; however, sometimes trying to fit it in to a packed schedule causes a bit of extra stress! I have the most difficult time with living in the NOW. I’m constantly worried about what happened in the past or what will happen tomorrow. Journal writing (writing for me) and blogging (writing for others) has helped me with this tremendously. I do find that yoga helps with this, but I have not (seriously) tried meditation. Do you have an resources for this???

    • Fitnessista on April 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm

      i think yogadownload has meditation podcasts and i’d check on itunes, too 🙂

  40. Katherine on April 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I’m a college student looking for a job… STRESS! I just feel like I can’t juggle everything. Is there a reason we look for other areas to *add* stress ourselves? I stress myself out about eating and exercising. Do you do that too?
    (I’m my own enemy in this!)

  41. Maddy on April 5, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    My roommate and I take a break to dance to “Ice Cream Freeze” by Hannah Montana. I’m not even embarrassed. We are 21.

    Whenever I start to feel stress/anxiety coming on, I remind myself that I live by a “no stress” policy. When I can’t remember to remind myself, I call my mother and she reminds me.

    When I feel like I don’t have time to cook some healthy, brain-powering grub, I usually do it anyway. Or I make a green smoothie because they are pure MAGIC and fast. It’s such a mental thing, but I feel like I can do anything after noshing on one of those bad boys.

    This post is serendipitously aligned with my busiest week of the semester. Three papers down, one to go.

    Also, your advice if golden. A thousand thanks!

  42. Betsy Kleiger on April 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Great Post! My mom has been in the hospital for going on a month now, not to mention my lil guy just started crawling everywhere!. Its been so stressful. I’m exhausted all the time and my tushy literally hurts from sitting at the hospital. I thought I was too tired to workout but I went to spin class tonight and I literally feel like a new person. Thanks for the motivation!

  43. Catherine on April 6, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Excellent post Gina!! I definitely struggle with stress from time to time, but I have found that a hard workout, be it running, swimming or spinning, always clears my head and allows me to attack whatever the problem is with a clear head. I’ve also started getting into yoga & journaling when feeling overwhelmed and it has done wonders for my sanity!

  44. LisaG on April 6, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Great suggestions – thank you.

  45. Jeremiah Ramirez on May 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Relaxation techniques and meditation can help a lot during Anxiety Attacks. *:`

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