Let’s face it; life is hectic these days, and whether we like it or not, we all get caught up trying to squeeze too much into our busy days.
Stress and our body’s reaction to it are a natural and normal part of life. Our bodies are built to deal with short-term stressful situations, but when stress becomes a constant companion it can wreak havoc on our immune system and cause a myriad of health issues.
Learning methods to deal with stress will improve our overall health and well-being and improve our quality of life, so let’s take a look at some ways we can easily reduce our stress levels.
Top Ways To Relieve Stress
1. Unplug From Work
Work can be a demanding and stressful environment, and more and more of us are taking our work home with us these days.
Employers are finding ways for workers to be more connected to the office, even during “off hours”. Email is particularly insidious, invading our time away from the office with the rise of mobile devices and 24/7 access.
We feel the need to hit REPLY even if we’re out of the office because the burden of email is so great we fear the consequences of not responding once we get back to work.
What To Do: Set aside 15-30 minutes after dinner to respond to critical emails that can’t wait, and then turn your device off.
This may be difficult to do at first, but a little discipline will go a long way. Stick to your commitment and you’ll notice stress levels lowering proportionally to the distance you keep from your mobile device.
Also, don’t do your email checking too close to bedtime. You’ll have a difficult time switching your mind and body into sleep mode if you’re checking emails right before you turn in.
2. Step Outside
Nature is one of life’s most natural stress relievers. Simply taking a walk outside in the fresh air is a great way to boost your mood and do something good for your fitness levels.
Exposure to natural sunlight can improve your sleep by keeping your circadian rhythm on track and increasing your serotonin levels.
Choosing the right path can be important, so be sure to find an area that’s relatively quiet and free from traffic and noise. I realize it’s easier said than done sometimes, but walking beside a busy 4 lane highway may only add to your stress levels.
You may choose to walk alone to sort your thoughts or take in all that nature has to offer, or walk with a friend to have an easy and carefree conversation.
Whatever your method, getting outside for a period of time each day will reduce your stress and keep you more physically fit.
What To Do: My strategy for commitment is to walk with a friend. It’s easy for me to dismiss my walk because I’m too busy or just don’t feel like it, but having an accountability partner helps me stay honest.
Also, try to squeeze in a walk during work, even if it’s 15 minutes outside at lunch. Every little bit helps, and you’ll be amazed at what you discover when you step outside.
3. Find a Hobby
Hobbies are a great way to relieve stress. Occupying your mind with something that deviates from your daily routine will bring a sense of fun and happiness that can literally change your life.
It’s a proven fact that 20 minutes of physical leisure activity will have a positive impact on stress levels.
Having a hobby can also play a part in reducing blood pressure levels as well as relieving depression and also reducing fatigue.
What To Do: Most people will pick a hobby they think they will automatically be good at. My suggestion is to try at least one brand new thing that might seem totally foreign to you. That’s how I learned to grow tomatoes and play the banjo!
4. Watch Your Diet
Increased stress levels also increase our cortisol level, which can lead to increased food cravings, among other things. Plenty of people eat because they are under constant stress. Some know this behavior as mindless eating or emotional eating.
What they may not know is that there are foods that have actually been shown to reduce stress levels, and they’re easily incorporated into our daily routine.
For instance, the folate in asparagus can play a part in leveling out your mood and also reducing depression and anxiety. Many kinds of berries contain high doses of vitamin C, which has been shown to be key in reducing stress levels.
What To Do: Work these delicious foods into your daily diet: Avocados, Chamomile Tea, Green Tea, Cashews, Dark Chocolate, Oranges, Garlic, and Walnuts. All these delicious foods can be used as snacks or in your favorite recipes to help reduce stress naturally.
5. Turn To Tea
We mentioned tea above, but it’s such a special beverage that it needs a place all its own. Teas have been used for centuries to relieve all kinds of health problems, from lowering blood pressure to weight management.
Researchers have found, however, that it’s not only the tea itself, but the actual ritual of putting a pot on to boil and then preparing the tea that actually all work together to combat stress. Making tea drinking a part of your day will reduce anxiety and relieve stress as well as contributing many other health benefits.
What To Do: Learn what teas work best for you. For instance, I seldom drink tea that contains caffeine, but when I do, I make sure it’s early in the day so it doesn’t affect my sleep. Herbals teas like chamomile and also green tea has been shown to reduce stress levels, and are delicious and good for you!
Meditation has quickly become one of my favorite stress relievers. It’s easy to get started, you don’t need any special equipment, especially at first, and it can be very effective in as little as 15 minutes per day.
Meditation lowers your heart rate and also decreases your blood pressure while allowing your muscles to relax. Meditation can also fight off illnesses and focuses your mind, and it will improve your decision making.
Learning to meditate has so many benefits that entire books have been written on the subject!
What To Do: Getting started is easy. Find a comfortable place that’s free of noise and distractions. Set aside 10 minutes at first, and sit comfortably. Focus on your breathing, concentrating on the inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders and begins to think of work or things you should be doing, forgive yourself and gently guide your thoughts back to your breathing.
Do this every day and try to make it at the same time to get into a routine. Start slow, and you can gradually expand your efforts to reap the rewards that meditation has to offer.
Exercise plays a major role in reducing stress. Whether it’s a trip to the gym for a round of lifting weights or going for a run around the neighborhood, exercise releases endorphins, which have been shown to improve your mood.
You’ll also benefit from increased self-confidence and know that you’re doing something that will improve your wellbeing.
The hardest part is getting into a routine, and here’s where a workout buddy can help. You can take turns motivating each other and take pride in achieving your goals.
What To Do: Before beginning any exercise routine, be sure to consult with your doctor. Also, start slowly. There’s nothing like aching muscles to steer you away from the gym, so be careful not to overdo it at first.
Finally, find an activity that you enjoy doing so you have the best chance of sticking with it.
Take Home Message
Stress can do serious damage to your body, and it can also affect the lives of those around you.
If you’re feeling the pressure of everyday life, take the time to make sure you reduce your stress levels by incorporating all that we talked about above and let the stress begin to melt away!