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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

May 19, 2020

12 Steps to a More Sustainable Lifestyle -Tuesday Health and Wellness Tidbit - from Your (Rural) Stress Transdisciplinary Team

Submitted by John Forshee

One of the things many of us have missed during this COVID-19 Pandemic is simply going out to a restaurant, sitting down to a mouthwatering menu, and choosing an appetizer, a salad, an entrée, and maybe even a dessert. We all like choices! Right?

Those experiencing chronic stress, however, may not feel the same way. The elevated levels of cortisol in our bodies that accompany long-term high levels of stress can literally cloud our thinking and cripple our ability to make choices! Last week Donna Krug shared an excellent article on Everyday Mindfulness, offering a simple breathing strategy that actually can help us lower our heart rate, decrease our blood pressure, and begin to clear that cortisol from our bodies. This week we want to share some additional Strategies for the Coping Toolbox taken from MF3418 Managing Stress and Pursuing Wellness, My Coping Strategies Plan bulletin that was a cooperative effort from NDSU Extension and KSRE.

“My Coping Strategies Plan” provides a list of coping tools that can be a part of your coping strategies toolbox. For some the answer to all stress is to simply go hunting or fishing! For others, it may be to saddle up and go for a ride. For others, it may be whittling some time away to curl up with a good book. That is why this handout is so good. It gives us choices that fit our situation and our style.

The handout breaks the strategies into six categories. Physical, Mental, Emotional/Spiritual, Personal/Relational, Work/Professional, and Financial/Professional. Under each category there is a list of about a dozen strategies for consideration. In the end, the user is urged to plan their “12 Steps to a More Sustainable Lifestyle” by selecting and prioritizing two strategies for each category. They are encouraged to incorporate the strategies chosen into their daily lives for a period of four weeks. They are asked to share and discuss these strategies for a trusted accountability partner and to check back in along the way and at the end of four weeks to assess progress.

The thing I really like about this toolkit is that it is so practical. It does not ask me to make huge lifestyle changes. It simply asks me to incorporate simple, practical things that I know I can do, even if my judgement is clouded by stress. For example, I know that I can drink four to eight glasses of water each day! I know I can spend five minutes in slow, deep breathing before bedtime each night to help me get 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep. I know that Dr. Hadley has given us full permission to get up from our computer and take regular 10-minute breaks for a short walk or stretch break. (Do remember that Tanda is watching if we head for the potato chips though! LOL!) I know that I can reach out to someone important to me and tell them what I appreciate about him/her. I know that I can attack that pile of “stuff” that is in the corner of my office if I just take five minutes per day to organize some of the clutter in my life. Finally, I know that I can stop before every purchase I make and decide whether it is just a want or if it is truly a need!

During these times of stress, look to the resources that we have right here at KSRE that we always look to share with others and see where we might apply them to our own lives. Wishing all KSRE employees good health and much happiness as we take a moment to slow down and take care of ourselves!