Long ago, stress had a much more functional role in the lives of most humans. We had to escape predators, hunt for food, and defend our homes from attack.
The cortisol that our body released gave us fuel to fight or flee and often kept us alive. We still produce the same stress hormones, but now the source is usually mental and emotional rather than immediate physical danger.
We get stressed about our perceptions, relationships, or work or money; the bodily reactions to the stress are exactly the same, and in today’s unrelenting flow of work and information, it can become overwhelming.
Therefore, it is vitally important that we learn how to manage stress and anxiety in order to remain healthy.
5 Tips to Reduce Your Stress
- Physical activity/recreation – Light exercise, especially when done outside, has multiple health benefits. Removing yourself for a short break from the stressors at work or home can ease the anxiety, and getting cardio in the sunlight does your heart as much good as the vitamin D does for your overall health. Exercise releases endorphins that can improve your mood.
- Meditate/reflect – the opposite of physical activity has its own benefits. Whether it is meditating with an app, practicing yoga, or keeping a gratitude journal, slowing down and working on mindfulness can heal the tension in the body. Deep breathing, reflecting on what we have to be grateful for, engaging in affirmations and positive self-talk, and slowing the hectic pace of our lives can be essential to break the cycle of stress and anxiety.
- Improving eating and drinking habits – often, we turn to things that comfort us when we are stressed, such as fast or sugary foods or alcohol, or other chemicals that give us a temporary respite from our worries. The problem is that stress and anxiety thrive when our bodies are subjected to the effects of emotional or stress eating. Working whole plants and lean protein into your diet can definitely impact your mood.
- Create – building time for hobbies that allow you to indulge the creative side of your personality is essential to managing stress. While it is tempting to sit on the couch and binge television when we have a break, consider picking up an old hobby or starting a new one, like playing music, writing, or art. Even just keeping a journal to express your thoughts can provide relief from the overthinking that leads to many types of stress.
- Enjoy your community – often, stress leads us to self-isolate, making us create excuses not to stop and eat lunch at work or encouraging us to say no to invitations when we are feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Humans are a social species, and we crave contact with others: hugs from loved ones, laughter over a shared meal, or taking part in a shared experience all can release serotonin and decrease the cortisol in your system, easing the physical effects of stress.
While it may seem counterintuitive to incorporate these strategies into your schedule when you already feel pressed for time, they are much more effective than just downing another energy drink to keep us going.
Practicing stress relief with intention can give you more energy and make you better equipped to deal with the issues that are causing the stress to begin with.