Ways to Reduce Stress
Stress is a dangerous thing, yet it creeps into our lives slowly and before we know it, we want to scream at the dogs, kick the coffee table and run till our feet bleed. Stress can lead to serious health issues, ranging from the physical, manifesting as things like ulcers, to mental problems too, including anxiety and depression. It is absolutely critical we manage our stress levels, and at the very least, minimize them as best we can.
The two main types of stress are acute and chronic:
- Acute stress happens within a few minutes to a few hours of an event. It lasts for a short period of time, usually less than a few weeks, and can be very intense. It can happen after an upsetting or unexpected event.
- Chronic stress lasts for a long period of time. You might experience this if you are under a lot of pressure a lot of the time. This could be career related, home related, or any number of persistent reasons.
The leading cause of stress is often considered to be work stress. Some of the most common work stresses are:
- Being unhappy in your job.
- Having too heavy a workload or too much responsibility.
- Working overly long hours.
- Having poor management, unclear expectations of your work, or no say in the decision-making process.
- Working under dangerous conditions.
- Being insecure about your chance for advancement or risk of termination.
Life & home stresses can also have a big impact. Examples of life stresses are:
- The death of a loved one
- Increase in financial obligations
- Getting married
- Moving to a new home
- Chronic illness or injury
- Emotional concerns (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, low self-esteem)
- Taking care of an elderly or sick family member
You Can Cope
It is important to understand where your stress is coming from, before you can begin to work on it & heal. People often react to stress in different ways, and have different coping mechanisms. There isn’t a one size fits all remedy, however there are ways to cope with stress that will benefit anyone who implements them into their lives.
We have compiled a list of tools and behaviours that will have a marked benefit on your stress levels, and overall wellbeing. The body & mind is an ecosystem, and it is important to ensure that you’re living as healthily as you can, before something takes too much strain and leads to something really bad. Here are 9 tools you should implement into your routine:
- Exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins, be it weightlifting, running, squash, you name it. Any form of physical activity that increases your heart rate will have you feeling better, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment after every workout or session too.
- Eat healthily: Ditch the fast foods and quick eats. Healthy food doesn’t have to take hours to prepare either (we have an entire range of easy recipes here). Make sure you’re getting your veggies in, and keeping the saturated fats, processed meats and soft drinks to a minimum.
- Laugh! Laughter is a huge stress relief, it not only lightens your mental load but also causes positive physical changes in your body. Call up that feel good friend of yours, watch some stand up, or even try out laughter yoga (it’s a thing!).
- Sleep: Sleeeeeeep. Proper, good sleep. Sometimes this needs planning, and even self-control. Get away from the TV at a reasonable hour, and when you do get to bed, put your phone down and leave it there. Your phones screen will disrupt your circadian rhythm, and REM sleep will be harder to achieve. We have exercises to help you sleep here.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Yes, too much caffeine can increase your stress levels.
- Mindfulness Meditation: Meditation is an ancient practice that has been proven to be effective in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and letting go of thoughts and worries. This type of meditation can be done anywhere, at any time, and can help people feel more centred, calm, and focused.
- Know your boundaries. Understand when to say no. If it’s to your boss, your partner or a friend, sometimes we need to be a little more assertive and know when something is just too much, and when to say no.
- Spend time outdoors. Recent studies have proven that just 2 hours a week outdoors can have a dramatic effect on stress reduction.
- Therapy. Sometimes, when the stress really is too much, we need external help from an unbiased third party who has the knowledge and understanding to help us. Therapy can be extremely beneficial, and not something to be sneered at or avoided.
If you’re feeling acutely stressed, and need a moment to breathe and calm down, a great idea is to try diaphragmatic breathing. This technique allows you to focus on your diaphragm, slows your heart rate, and even strengthens your diaphragm. There are various forms of diaphragmatic breathing. Basic diaphragmatic breathing is the simplest form. To perform basic diaphragmatic breathing, follow the instructions below:
- Lie down on a flat surface with a pillow under the head and pillows beneath the knees. Pillows will help keep the body in a comfortable position.
- Place one hand on the middle of the upper chest.
- Place the other hand on the stomach, just beneath the rib cage but above the diaphragm.
- To inhale, slowly breathe in through the nose, drawing the breath down toward the stomach. The stomach should push upward against the hand, while the chest remains still.
- To exhale, tighten the abdominal muscles and let the stomach fall downward while exhaling through pursed lips. Again, the chest should remain still.
Bringing these tools into your life doesn’t need to be a dramatic change. Our brains aren’t wired for instant and immediate overhauls. Implement them slowly, and thoughtfully. You will find they become habits, and they will definitely help you in your day-to-day life, and you will find yourself becoming happier and more content. A happier you is a more successful you. And pet a dog.
Body20 is an all-encompassing, holistic approach to physical, and mental well-being. The mind & body are an ecosystem, and we understand the value of taking care of it all.
Body20 members get access to Nutrition Doctors and Wellness Coaches to assist in improving the quality of their lives. To find out more, book your free demo at your nearest Body20 Studio to find out more.