Stress: Everybody Has It And Here’s What You Can Do About It

Stress can be defined as the thoughts, feelings, behavioral and physiological changes that occur when the demands placed upon us exceed our perceived ability to cope. In other words, everyone experiences stress at some time, but how you deal with it can impact your quality of life. The following coping skills and lifestyle methods can help to prevent stress from taking a negative toll on your daily and long-term physical and mental health.

Regular Exercise

Exercise is one of the most effective stress management strategies. Aerobic activities such as jogging, swimming, kickboxing, or biking can help to relieve pressure and clear your mind. This type of exercise allows the body to release healthy chemicals in the brain called endorphins. Endorphins are similar to opiates in that they give our body and mind a “feel good” sensation. Regular exercise also eliminates the release of powerful stress hormones like cortisol.

Remember, fifteen minutes of activity per day is all it takes to get your heart rate up. If you don’t have a lot of free time, try to incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine. Walk instead of taking the subway or bus, take the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or take a walk to pick the kids up from the bus stop instead of driving. In addition to the physical benefits of living an active lifestyle, exercise can build confidence and improve your mood by helping you stay fit.

Peer Support

Fostering healthy friendships can also aid in the process of stress relief by providing emotional support.

Talking with and seeking advice from your friends allows you to verbalize your thoughts, thus getting them off your chest. Once your friends listen to what’s troubling you, they may be able to offer a different perspective or help you work through the issue. You might be surprised to learn that your friends have been in a similar position in the past and can offer helpful advice.

Beyond having a shoulder to lean on, it often helps to simply have people around. Being social satisfies the universal human need to come in contact with others. Surrounding yourself with those whose company you enjoy releases natural endorphins. Creating and maintaining relationships is a crucial part of a healthy social life.

Relaxation Techniques

Although it might seem impossible to relax when you are feeling high levels of stress, it is important to try. Effective approaches to relaxation include yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises which allow us to influence bodily functions that are ultimately out of our control like heart rate, blood pressure and digestion.

As a breathing exercise, try inhaling for the same amount of time you exhale. This might be hard to do at first but will become easier with practice. This exercise should be done at least three times a week as a relaxation technique. Be mindful of where your breaths are coming from to ensure optimum oxygen flow. Breathing through your abdomen allows the oxygen in your body to circulate properly which in turn improves lung health. Practice the use of your abdomen as a breathing exercise. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach area. Take a deep breath in and see whether your chest or stomach rises higher. If your chest rises higher, you are not breathing ideally. Practice this a few times a week until you develop the proper technique. Using this method along with the inhaling and exhaling exercises will decrease stress while improving lung function and health.

Sleeping Habits

Sleep is an essential part of a low stress life style. A routine that consists of a good eight hours of sleep, balanced diet, and daily exercise will make you less susceptible to stress and will allow you to deal with things more reasonably. A good night’s sleep is crucial for a productive, low stress day. In addition to the length of your sleep cycle, it helps to go to sleep around 10:00pm and wake up around 6:00 or 7:00am. Waking up early allows our body to re-energize before activities begin and also gives you time to eat a healthy breakfast. If you are not able to fall asleep, try listening to relaxing music or a white-noise sound machine. Watching television right before bed or sleeping with the lights on can disrupt the release of melatonin and serotonin in your brain. Eating right before bed makes you more susceptible to weight gain and nightmares. If you are feeling hungry before bed, heat up a glass of milk or drink chamomile tea. It’s best to avoid sweets and grains as they will increase your blood sugar which can contribute to weight gain and restlessness.

Low Stress Living

Stress is influenced by the internal health of our body, as well as our external environment. As humans, we are highly susceptible to stress and it is important that we try to reduce it and manage it in the most productive way possible. In order to be productive, it helps to maintain a healthy level of relaxation. Stress does not only affect you as an individual, but also affects those around you including your children, spouse and co-workers. By finding your own peace of mind, you can create a more peaceful environment and perpetuate a low stress lifestyle.

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