5 Ways to Manage Stress
We’d be willing to bet that for most of you, the idea of managing stress is well… stressful! We have so many demands on our lives: work, family/friends, education/school, housekeeping/daily commitments, etc. The list of things we do every day feels never ending. All of these demands take a toll on our bodies. We feel overwhelmed, bogged down, and our minds are cluttered with all the “to do” lists. Taking control of our lives and managing stress is incredibly vital to our health journey. Stress in our lives impacts so many aspects of our bodies. Do you find yourself struggling with nutrition when you’re stressed out? Hello, chocolate! Do you find that you don’t want to exercise, either? Enter the couch and Netflix, right? Stress, regardless of where it comes from, has a very negative bearing on your health.
Why is stress so bad for our bodies? Besides the obvious reasons, there is a hormone in our bodies that helps deal with stress, and it’s called cortisol. This steroid hormone plays a role in metabolism. We often point the finger at cortisol when it comes to weight gain or inability to lose weight. It is believed that high levels of stress increase cortisol, and therefore, make it harder for your body’s metabolism to function properly. Stress is also known to cause inflammation. Inflammation in the body occurs when it feels threatened. These threats can be foreign bodies (bacteria, virus, etc.) or psychological or emotional stress (especially that of the chronic kind). These are just a few reasons why managing stress in your life is so important to your health. Let’s look at some things that you can do to lower stress in your life.
1. R&R = rest and relaxation. How much sleep do you get? Getting restful sleep, and enough of it, is imperative to your health. Many people sell themselves short and don’t get enough sleep. The recommended number of hours is 7 to 9 per night. Some people think they sleep that much, but they are restless and don’t get enough time for the body to repair. Taking time for yourself to relax can also aid in reducing the impact of stress on the body. Self-care, including things like taking hot baths, journaling, meditating, deep breathing and yoga, can promote good sleep and can lower stress levels.
2. Physical activity – this is a great way to relax your body and mind! A good place to start is three to five days a week for 20 to 30 minutes. If your schedule allows, 30 to 45 minutes,five days a week, will provide wonderful benefits! If you don’t have the time to designate as “exercise” time, then do it throughout the day. Take a 10 minute walk a few times a day, and you’ll get your movement in and lower stress at the same time!It’s also recommended to stretch on a regular basis. When our bodies are stressed, the muscles tense and tighten up. This tension can find its way throughout our bodies and become overwhelming – leading to headaches, backaches, cramps, etc. Stretching can loosen up the muscles, and in turn, remove extra physical stress on the body.
3. Eat well– the food we eat is a huge component in stress. Eating a balanced diet helps you feel better overall and improves mood and energy. A diet with a lot of whole foods, healthy fats, protein for energy and minimal artificial ingredients is best. What we eat influences our bodies far beyond that moment in time when we consume it. Have you ever eaten something and the next day your body feels awful? Maybe you have a headache, or you’re bloated, perhaps you feel tired or run down. Those stresses on your body come from what you ate the day before. It is important to find a balance between the things your body needs and the things that you enjoy eating. For many people, once they get into a groove with clean nutrition, they find they don’t miss some of the things that used to trigger stress in their body.
4. Minimize alcohol and nicotine– some people turn to these things when they feel overwhelmed and stressed. They feel like they find relief in having a drink or a cigarette. Unfortunately, while this might be true temporarily, the long term effects add even more stress to our bodies. Prolonged, excessive use of either of these substances wreak havoc on our systems. The short term stress relief (instant gratification) may seem worth it, but at the end of the day,we are in more danger of high stress levels because of it. Keeping the use of alcohol and nicotine to a minimum will reduce continual stress on our bodies.
5. Have fun – this may seem like a strange addition to our list, but it is incredibly beneficial for your body and mind to have fun and do things that bring you joy. Strangely enough, hobbies can manage stress in many ways: drawing, biking, doing puzzles, knitting, golfing, etc. Finding something that can help take your mind off potential triggers and stressors in your life can go a long way in minimizing stress on your body. Do things that bring good energy into your life. Surround yourself with people that make you smile and laugh. Putting yourself in a place or space that brings you happiness is so powerful in melting away stress.
Taking control of your life and managing stress is extremely essential to your health journey. Stress impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. Stress, regardless of where it comes from, can be detrimental to your overall health. It is so imperative to lower stress to avoid increased cortisol levels and potential triggers of inflammation. We understand that it is impossible to eliminate all sources of stress, but we believe that having a management system in place will minimize its long term effects. We hope that you will give these 5 ways to manage stress a try, and that most importantly, you’ll find great relief from them.