7 Effective Strategies to Manage Stress
A nationwide gallop poll reported, 60% of U.S adults feel daily stress. Having stress is normal, but we must learn how not to let it cripple us. Long-term stress may lead to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, and obesity. If you have a hard time dealing with the stress of everyday life, here are 7 effective strategies to manage stress.
A powerful, inexpensive method to relieve stress is to get up and move! Exercise is a highly effective tool to relieve stress. Exercise reduces stress hormones and increases natural feel-good hormones promoting brain positivity.
When done consistently, exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, exercise improves your sleep and positive self-image. Finally, certain exercise types like yoga, Pilates, and tai chi enhance relaxation and mindfulness.
Knowing what triggers your stress is essential to create a plan to cope. With all of the craziness going on in the world, it is easy to feel sucked into bad news. If this is a triggering stressor for you, take a step away and do something you enjoy.
What about work? Our cell phones offer us easy access to the world, and this is both positive and negative. We may feel obligated to rush and check our messages as soon as we see a notification. Learn to place your phone on silent, face down, and focus on your task at hand. I guarantee you get more things done!
Limit procrastination. If you often feel stressed because you wait until the last minute, find a better way to manage your time. Make a schedule or a checklist daily to remind yourself of your tasks to get things done on time.
Get More Sleep
When you get enough sleep, you’re allowing your body to recharge from the day. Lack of sleep produces similar physical effects in the body as stress, like weight gain. If you have issues winding down, consider setting up a bedtime routine.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine for a minimum of 6 hours before bedtime.
- End screen time on your phones, computer, or television at least 30 minutes before you intend to go to bed.
- Put your phone on silent, or do not disturb.
- Drink a warm, calming bedtime drink like chamomile.
- Take a hot shower and run essential oils in the background like lavender to promote relaxation.
- Use apps or calming noise machines to help you wind down.
Mindfulness allows you to be in the present moment and reduce negative thinking. Through mindfulness, the symptoms of stress-related anxiety and depression are reduced. Here are examples of mindfulness exercises.
- Pay Attention– Stop, notice your breathing, and appreciate your environment. Place positive images around you or plants. Take time to focus and enjoy them.
- Be in the moment– It is easy to get caught up with what is about to happen or things outside of your control. Be open and accepting of what is happening at the moment. Focus on what you can control and find joy in simple pleasures.
- Accept Yourself– There is no one else like you! Be kind to yourself and know that you are doing your best. Always treat yourself as well as you treat the ones you love.
- Just Breathe– When you feel negativity, take a moment, breathe deeply, and close your eyes. Inhale deeply and hold for 5 seconds. As you hold focus on the air in your lungs and push it out from your belly. Repeat as many times as you need to.
Are you the type of person who always likes to help or be involved in everything? Learn how to say no and stop overcommitting yourself. There is a notion that we should all be booked and busy, but this can be counterproductive to our mental health. If you constantly feel overextended, be okay with saying no. It is okay to put yourself first.
What we eat can trigger responses in our emotional health. Many turn to emotional eating to combat stress in their life. Although those foods provide short term relief, they add to long term stress. Incorporate mood-boosting foods into your diet to help regulate your mood and energy. Here are mood-boosting foods to consider:
- Dark Chocolate– High in flavonoids to increase blood flow to your brain, reduce inflammation, and increase brain health.
- Berries- Rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation and free radicals promoted through stress.
- Fatty Fish- Fatty fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are mood stabilizers.
- Nuts and seeds- contain omega-3 fatty acids and tryptophan, a calming amino acid that increases serotonin.
- Fermented foods- Fermented foods contain probiotics, which are essential to gut health and healthy bacteria. In turn, a healthy gut increases serotonin levels in the body.
We always hear about practicing self-care or taking a self-care day, but how many of us actually do these things? Do not be so consumed with your daily responsibilities that you forget to do things for yourself. If you do not have a hobby or interest just for you, have fun exploring different activities. Here are some suggestions:
- Cuddle with a pet– pets release positive chemicals in our brains to boost our mood.
- Color– Adult coloring books relax your brain and take the attention away from everything else.
- Read a book– Engulfing yourself in a book can distract you from daily stressors. A study even found reading to reduce stress by 68%.
- Garden– Keeping a garden has numerous benefits for your health. Caring for plants encourages mindfulness and meditation through being one with nature. The exposure to sunlight improves serotonin levels and absorption of vitamin D. Finally, it brings a sense of community and satisfaction.
Overall, it’s not about the stress we have in our life. It is how we handle it. It is hard to avoid stress, but you can easily reduce the symptoms if you have a plan to cope. If you find that after using these coping mechanisms, you still cannot control your stress level, please seek professional help to find a personal plan to deal with life stressors.