10 of the Best Ways to Decrease Your Stress
Life has a way of stressing us out at times! With the negative impact that stress can play on our body physiologically it is essential to learn ways to successfully decrease our stress level. In this article you will learn 10 of the most effective ways to decrease stress in your life - starting TODAY!
Our current lives often carry a lot of commitments we make, deadlines we rush to meet and now the new things we must consider regarding the recent pandemic. Did you know that an astonishing 67% of adults say “ they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic.” (1) With all that we mentioned it is no wonder that many of us are struggling to get through our days when we’ve been feeling the accumulation of added stress on our lives for a long time now.
How does stress negatively impact health?
Prolonged stress is hard on your overall well being. It is stated that, “ Over time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety”.
(2) Additionally, stress has been linked to low levels of vitamins and minerals in our body, making it even harder to function on a “normal” basis. If you can relate to this you may be wondering what you should do about it!
Here are 10 Effective Ways to Decrease Stress:
- Take the right vitamins and minerals. There are certain vitamins and minerals that help ensure that we are properly using the energy we need from the food we are consuming. Vitamins such as Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Iron and Magnesium are particularly important in helping to prevent fatigue from stress. Some studies have shown that ensuring adequate amounts of these vitamins can have “health benefits in the areas of mental and physical fatigue, as well as cognitive and psychological functions.” (3)
- Exercise is another important habit to adopt in your lifestyle. Exercise is well known to be one of the best ways to release those feel good endorphins and break the stress cycle. Aim for at least thirty minutes on most days to help brighten your day.
- Proper sleep is essential. Sleep is one of the most often overlooked yet most crucial aspects of stress management. Getting to bed at a regular time each night and ensuring that you get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep is a great step toward effectively managing stress. Not getting the recommended amount of sleep is associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents. (4)
- Eating a well balanced and healthy diet gives your body the foundation for optimal functionality. Did you know that choosing processed high sugar foods only adds more oxidative stress to your body and can keep your body trapped in a cycle of highs and lows (in terms of your energy level)? While sugar (and caffeine) can give you that quick burst of energy, it often can leave you feeling energy depleted. To break away from this habit, aim to include a balanced meal of a fruit or vegetable, whole grain carbohydrate and healthy protein and fat. An example would be a whole grain wholesome cracker with string cheese, avocado and an apple or carrots.
- Make time for self care! Often we forget how important it is to take time out to do things we enjoy. When we cram our days full of all of our to-do’s we can find ourselves depleted! Scheduling “me time” to do something we truly find enjoyable and even relaxing benefits our well being greatly. If we go through life without spending time on things we enjoy doing we will become emotionally depleted, which in turn can leave us feeling energy depleted and ultimately experience burn out in many areas of our life. Take some time to make an inventory of things you enjoy doing and then find time to make them happen daily. Some ideas for this can be hiking, drawing, reading a favorite book, building something, gardening - just to name a few.
- Get outside in nature and breathe in some fresh air! Getting outside is yet another way we can combat stress. In a study in Japan, they found that “along with decreasing stress hormone concentrations by more than 15%, a walk in the forest lowered participants' average pulse by almost 4% and blood pressure by just over 2%.” (5) So, getting outside more will work wonders on your frame of mind and stress levels on a physiological level.
- Make human connection a priority. Connecting with others and talking about our problems go hand in hand. Often during times of stress or crisis we can become internally preoccupied and forget to reach out to others (because we are so stressed!). If you are feeling very stressed it is not the time to cut off connections to others, MORE connection to your support system is needed in times of high stress. Finding a friend to vent to and feeling like you are a part of a community can help as well.
- Talk it out! Being able to talk to someone you trust about your stresses and concerns can be therapeutic and also provide you the opportunity to process your thoughts and needs more effectively as you create a game plan that meets your needs. Reach out to family, friends or a trusted professional.
- Take a break from technology and sense your stress decrease! Breaking the technology habit can be a powerful way to help decrease your stress. If you find yourself lost on your device, computer or phone, then perhaps it is time to set up some limits to avoid the time-suck that can occur when technology becomes all-consuming. Technology has great advantages when used properly, but when allowed to, it can hijack our brains, as each hit of dopamine that we get from a like on social media can keep us coming back for more, yet not truly fulfill us, and can often leave us feeling drained and bombarded by too much information. If you feel that you are struggling in this area, begin by putting away your phone for short periods of time, then extending the time frame, until you are no longer reaching for your phone (or device) as often. Another idea is once your day hits a certain time in the afternoon you could “retire” your device to an office or other area until the next day to avoid the temptation.
- Practicing gratitude daily is a powerful habit to add to your lifestyle. Setting aside time at the beginning or end of the day to write down things you are grateful for can help bring a huge mental shift to your day. By focusing more on what’s going right with our lives, than what is not, it will take the focus off negative thoughts that can be causing undue stress. You could record your gratitude in a journal, on sticky notes at your work area or even on your mirror with an erasable marker so you see them every morning.
These 10 ways to help you reduce your stress are simple and you can start adopting some of these habits towards self care TODAY! Which one are you going to start with first?
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