Week Six: Stress Less Sleep More

BIDMC Contributor

OCTOBER 12, 2017


Step 1: Read Lesson

Daily Stress

Stress is the body's normal physical response to anything that requires you to adjust to change. Stressors vary from minor inconveniences to major life traumas and express themselves in various forms that may include:

  • Physical stressors (fever, pain, illness)
  • Environment stressors (weather, noise, housing concerns, traffic)
  • social and emotional stressors (financial concerns, job and family demands, having to make a big decision, guilt, loss)

As you lower your set point and reach a higher fitness level, your overall stress level will likely drop a little bit. It is unavoidable to eliminate all everyday stress, however learning to deal with your stress in a more positive manner can help prevent it from getting in the way of reaching your goals.

Ways to Prevent Stress

Certain stressors we can't plan for, but hopefully the exercises this week help you hone in on what some of your primary stressors may be, so that you can reevaluate how you can reduce stress inducing circumstances. One very common reason people have stress is because they are not managing their time well.

  • Take time for yourself by learning to say, "No."
  • Delegate or share some of your work or responsibilities with others. Don't try to do it all yourself!
  • Set achievable goals and relish in "small" successes.
  • Plan ahead.
    • Make not of situations that have been stressful to you in the past.
    • Plan for how to handle them or work around them.
  • Take charge of your time.
    • Be realistic. Everything seems to take longer than you expect, so factor in extra time when making schedules.
    • Get organized.
Ways to Relieve Stress

Nurturing you mental health to stay in balance is the key to managing your stress.

Mind-body techniques: Progressive muscle relaxation. Isolating specific sets of muscles, tensing them briefly, and then relaxing them creates a sense of release and "letting go" that can quiet a racing mind. Start at the top of your head and move down to your toes.

Deep breathing: This technique is intended to mimic the deep, slow breathing that's typical during sleep, which stems from the diaphragm, the muscle between the abdomen and chest. While lying down:

  • Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.
  • Slowly inhale through your nose or through pursed lips (to slow the breath).
  • Feel your stomach expand, which should cause your hand to rise.
  • Slowly exhale through pursed lips
  • Try to match the length of the exhale to the length of your inhale
  • Rest and repeat 5 to 10 times


  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position with your eyes closed
  • Relax your muscles and take a deep, slow breath
  • Chose a focus word or short phrase, perhaps one that resonates with your religious or spiritual beliefs (for example, "one," "peace," "amen," or "shalom." )
  • As you breathe, repeat the word aloud or in your mind
  • Assume a passive attitude, without concern about how well you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, "Oh well," and gently return to your repetition.
  • Continue for ten to 20 minutes.

Visualization or guided imagery: A variant of meditation, this practice encourages you to focus instead on soothing images to help you relax. You can conjure up your own images-a scene, place, experience-or work with a therapist who verbalizes pleasant images, such as beaches or forests. You can also buy recordings that will help you practice this technique.


There is a growing body of research showing a close link between duration of sleep and body weight. Research shows that middle-aged adults who sleep less than eight hours a night are more likely to be overweight. There are many possible reasons for this connection currently being explored in research. Learn sleep strategies from the National Sleep Foundation >>

Cultivating Happiness During Your "Day Off"

Make connections: Cultivate relationships by spending quality time with family members, a partner, and friends, even pets. Make a conscious effort to gather for family suppers, meet friends for coffee, walk with a neighbor, or catch up with long-distance family and friends over the phone.

Count your blessings: Writing down three to five things for which you feel thankful (a "gratitude journal") can boost happiness.

Practice kindness: Doing good makes you feel good, so find ways to give back, by being good friend and neighbor, acting as a mentor or big brother or big sister to someone, or by doing volunteer or charity work.

Step 2: Watch Video

Watch Kristina Spellman's video to get tips and information to help you understand this week's principles.

Step 3: Review and Complete Activities

Activities Workbook (pdf)

Step 4: Listen to Podcast

Listen to Dr. Blackburn's podcast to keep yourself motivated.

Step 5: Take Quiz

Take the quiz to test what you've learned this week!

Step 6: Perform Weekly Tasks

  • Continue to keep track of your daily intake and assess R-K-O status daily
  • Continue using Eat Less strategies: 450 in 20 minutes, measure portion sizes, use nutrition label
  • Plan ahead for potential stressful situations. For those situations you can't predict try to use some of the stress reliever actions listed above like deep breathing.
  • Track your sleep hours and determine if you need to add more
  • Give yourself a day off to cultivate your happiness
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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