Do you find that you’re in knots most of the day? Is stress getting the best of you? Staying calm and relaxed throughout the day can be tough. The stresses of life can rob you of joy, peace, and an overall sense of well-being. The good news is that you don’t have to remain in that state. In part two of our chat, The Cheat Sheet received some valuable stress-management and relaxation advice from former NFL coach Steve Gera. Here are four of his best tips.
1. Head outside
Don’t say cooped up in your house or in your office all day. You’ll be healthier and more relaxed if you take a few minutes to step outside and enjoy some fresh air.
“Get out into nature. I tell many of my clients that they need to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside without a single piece of technology tugging at them. It’s amazing what happens when a player or coach begins to go on 20-minute walks with the wife on a beach, on a trail close to their home, or in a park,” said Gera.
Gera says when he was a coach he would relax before and after games by running. If running isn’t your thing, you can try engaging in some other physical activity that helps you feel more relaxed. It could be dancing, yoga, or even sex.
I always ran four miles in the morning before every NFL game, whether it was at home or on the road. I tried cycling as well, but it wasn’t quite as good. When I coached [for the San Diego Chargers] I would surf after games, or I would go for a bike ride to the same pizza joint. When I was on the road I would put away the football work for at least 45 minutes and I would read a book. When I coached for the Cleveland Browns I began meditating for 15 minutes after each game. I would definitely pop out a bottle of red wine with dinner as well, but only after I was properly relaxed in the first place!
3. Learn to appreciate “good stress”
Not all stress is bad. Sometimes, you need a little push to get going and stay motivated. Learn to work with some of the stressors in your life instead of resisting them. According to Gera, it can help you focus:
Stress, like all things, can be a good in moderation. It focuses you, it hones your skills. It’s only when we let it grab hold of our executive control that we allow it to affect our body and mind. I have not always practiced a calm lifestyle. In 2008, when I was with the San Diego Chargers, we played a game in London versus the New Orleans Saints. The Wednesday after we returned I was so over-traveled and over-stressed that I felt like my heart was going to explode. Since then I’ve adopted many techniques for managing my stress levels. I run and swim often. I meditate three times a week or when I feel like I’m going overboard. I stretch — especially by shoulders and neck. I take 20 minutes every day to just walk outside and let my mind wander — I find this reflection time some of my most productive in generating ideas.
4. Keep technology at a minimum
If you seem to have an addiction to your tech toys, it’s time to take a break. This could possibly be contributing to your stress and anxiety. Gera says it’s important to realize that you don’t have to remain connected all day:
Technology is really becoming a huge impediment to people finding more headroom. We have created a world where we are always on and available. This is one of the main issues I see with many of my clients. I did a sleep study with a CEO once and we saw that he was waking up every night at 1:00 a.m. I asked to see his mobile phone and sure enough, he had an alert set for 1:00 a.m. because he had just moved from the West Coast where he always checked his emails one more time at 10:00 p.m. at night. The blue light from his phone was telling his body to wake up, but he had literally just entered REM sleep. We turned his phone over on his nightstand so the light would no longer peek through and he reported feeling significantly better in just a few days. Stress is a construct that we create on our own, and it’s one that we can control on our own with the right strategy and mindset.
Go here for part one of this interview.