We all hear about stress these days and how bad it is for our health. We see it as a monster ready to pounce on us every time it gets a chance. Many people consider stress a part of modern life and learn to live with it. But stress is not normal and it can be overcome!
You just need to learn how. Here are some tricks and tips to reduce stress so you can keep your cool.
Tips to reduce stress
Take Control of Your Thoughts
Many people run tons of negative thoughts in their head on a daily basis, without even being aware of it.
This creates a stressful state and anxiety that keeps fueling your hormonal imbalances. A technique known as “thought‐stopping” can help you halt negative, obsessive thoughts. The first step is to literally call a halt to this train of thought (like saying the word “Stop!” out loud or to yourself). Next, choose a positive thought on which you’ll focus instead. This way you’re swapping a negative, stress‐inducing thought for a positive one. To increase emotional comfort, it’s imperative to practice reassuring and realistic self‐talk (saying something along the lines of, “I am feeling anxious / irritable now, but I have the power to calm myself down.”).
Apply Self Soothing Techniques
There are many physiological changes that are triggered, when we are faced with a stressful situation. Our breathing quickens, adrenaline is secreted, and our heart begins to race. This is called the fight or flight response – a natural survival mechanism intended to help us escape danger. However, when the threat is imagined, the fight/flight response is unnecessary and damaging to your health. Many people with chronic stress remain blocked in this state of alert, without being able to snap out of it.
Luckily, there are techniques you can learn to reduce your response to stress, like deep breathing techniques, muscle relaxation exercises and meditation. Deep breathing can help with a rapid heart beat. The most commonly utilized strategy is breathing by contracting the diaphragm, a horizontal muscle in the chest located just above the stomach cavity.
Using muscle relaxation exercises you can induce a relaxed state and physical comfort, by tightening and releasing muscles, beginning with the largest muscle group. Meditation is also a powerful way to bring back a peaceful state to your body and clearing up your mind from erratic and negative thoughts.
Check Your Diet
What does stress have to do with eating? A whole lot! What we eat and drink largely impacts our emotional state. Stimulating foods and drinks like coffee, sodas, chocolate, and alcohol can cause anxiety, trigger panic attacks, and increase feelings of nervousness and irritability, as well as trembling and shaking. Deciding to go “cold turkey” by abruptly eliminating caffeine is not always recommended since it can lead to withdrawal symptoms. You might experience headaches, restlessness, and irritability. So it’s better to decrease caffeine consumption gradually by replacing it with tea for example.
Regular alcohol consumption can also generate a lot of biochemical imbalances in your body, like blood sugar dysregulation, liver problems and dehydration, which add to the stress burden your body needs to handle.
By choosing your appropriate exercise routine you can reduce stress, improve mood, enhance self-esteem, and increase energy levels. Be careful not to over exercise, which can actually contribute to your stress level.
It’s a known fact that during exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins and norepinephrine, which interact with receptors in the brain. These chemicals determine euphoric feelings, reduction in physical pain and the ability to deal with stress more efficiently.
Get More Sleep
Losing just a few hours of sleep increases feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and exhaustion. It’s a vicious cycle since because of stress you might not be able to fall and stay asleep, but lack of sleep is also generating stress.
So try to get a solid seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and don’t feel bad about also adding a nap in the afternoon on days when you’re feeling especially drained. Go to sleep before 10 – 11 PM and don’t use the computer or watch TV before it, since these can interfere with your melatonin production and make it harder to fall and stay asleep.
By choosing a type of relaxing music which you prefer, you can help the body and mind dissipate stress. Research has shown that classical music may help you unwind and improve your mood. You can also experience therapeutic CDs of “binaural beats,” which are meant to calm the mind and body and where different frequencies call forth different moods.
Begin and End the Day Right
In the morning, in order to make intelligent use of your energy for the day, take some time to reflect, meditate, read or better yet take a nature walk, away from computer and TV. You could do the same in the evening, or just simply delight in the rare pleasure of doing nothing. These can ease the stress of too much computer or office time, counteract overstimulation and boost your mood.
Doing Something Fun
Doing something fun always gets postponed due to the avalanche of responsibilities we have during the day. But without a balance in your life, frustration and so stress might arise. It’s been found that creating artwork, crafts or making time for a hobby helps to relax, can be very stress-reducing and takes your focus away from your own thoughts and worries.
Massage is a great way to loosen the muscles that are habitually affected by stress. Think about all the frowning and scrunching of your face muscles and how relaxing it is to work on these! Essential oils can calm, center, and energize you by reducing the effects of stress and mental fatigue. You can give yourself a massage, while taking small breaks from your work, or you could have a professional massage to benefit your whole body.
A class of herbs called adaptogens help your body to cope more effectively with the demands and stress of everyday life. They provide a sustained sense of calm, and while they increase energy, with the exception of Chinese ginseng, they are non-stimulating. Some of the most used adaptogens are: ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, schisandra, shatavari, eleuthero.
Try adding these tips and tricks to your daily routine to reduce stress!