In today’s world chronic stress have become our new normal, life moves at a tremendous pace often pushing us beyond our limits. So to cope effectively and thrive, it’s important to have effective ways to de-stress.
Having high-stress levels in your life not only reduces your quality of life; it can also negatively affect your health, putting extra strain on your immune system, relationships, sleep and overall mental health. Consciously de-stressing regularly can be beneficial for those with even just mild forms of stress. There’s a reason why they say stress kills.
What is Stress?
Stress is your body’s natural way to respond to threats – real or imagined. It’s a reaction meant to trigger a fight or flight response in a life-threatening situation like an attack by a Saber Tooth Tiger. But now that Saber Tooth Tigers are no longer a threat, we have managed to find other things to be stressed about. A looming deadline, moving to a new house and so on.
Unfortunately, stress can manifest in all kinds of surprising ways so it’s important to look out for:
- Racing and repetitive thoughts
- Upset stomach or knots in your stomach
- Insomnia or taking a long time to fall asleep
- Brain fog, or forgetting things more than usual
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Feelings of anxiety or worry
- Emotional eating, drinking or even smoking
- Muscle tension, especially in your neck and back
- Depression or feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling nauseous or even dizzy
- Loss of sex drive
What are the Most Effective Ways to De-stress?
Stress can be beneficial in short bursts as it can help you to meet challenges and is a good way of keeping you on your toes as it does sharpen your concentration. But prolonged stress stops being helpful and starts to cause damage. It can give you brain fog and make you less effective at work.
If you easily feel overwhelmed it’s time to act and get your system back into balance. To de-stress it’s important to start doing something about it and embrace life to the fullest with some of these simple techniques that help you stress less.
1. Meditate At Least Once or Even Twice a Day
Meditation is a great way to help you to de-stress and there is no perfect way to get going so is accessible to everyone. You can start with a simple breathing meditation by getting comfortable in a quiet spot, focusing on releasing stress and thinking about nothing but your breath. It’s natural for your mind to wander at this point, don’t judge it if thoughts arise just let it slip away slowly and return to listening to your breath.
Studies have shown that regular mindfulness meditation practise can reduce neurogenic inflammation caused by stress.
Guided meditation can be particularly helpful as it keeps you focused and helps you to manage racing thoughts. There are even some wonderful apps out there that turn your smartphone into your favourite new meditation device.
Set aside a few minutes every morning and just before bed to meditate and watch the stress melt away. A quick five- or ten-minute meditation is enough to help you get into a routine and you can then extend the time as you grow in your practice.
2. Start a Journal to Help De-Stress
This one may surprise you. A journal is an effective tool to help you worry and de-stress as it’s a good way of putting your thoughts on paper and evaluating them objectively. It can help you to look back and figure out what triggers your emotional response. This is valuable information to have since you can’t work towards reducing or eliminating a trigger if you don’t know what it is. The simple act of writing about what’s on your mind can be incredibly freeing.
As you grow older and your memory starts to deteriorate (sad, but true), journaling can also help you to recall events and actions of the past. We often play events repeatedly in our minds, bending scenarios to our own point of view. Whereas if you’ve written it down at the time you journal you can flip back to the events of the day to see if you could be overreacting unnecessarily years later.
3. Exercise and Keep Moving
Another simple, but very powerful technique is to find a type of exercise you enjoy like walking for Example. Then go for a walk or exercise regularly as it reduces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, making it an effective way to de-stress.
Get outside during active time, but if that’s not a good option, hop on a treadmill or pace around your house. It doesn’t take a lot of moving before you start to see the benefits. If you have an hour lunch break, walk or do a form of exercise for 20 minutes and spend the rest of the time relaxing and eating. Make it work for you and get in the habit of exercising regularly.
3. Hug a Friend or Friendly Pet
That’s right. Something as simple as a hug can help you relax and fight stress. Make sure the hug is genuine on both sides and for best results, hold the embrace for at least twenty seconds. You’ll start to feel calm and those endorphins will flood your system. Don’t have anyone around to hug at the moment? Pets can be a great help here as well.
A friendly dog or even a cat will appreciate your cuddles and hugs and could be just as effective as hugging a person. I find watching my rabbits graze on the lawn very relaxing as they seem so happy and enthusiastic about something as basic as a lawn! They do appreciate a good cuddle but might not be as affectionate as a dog for example.
4. Laugh Away Stress; Watch a Comedy
Laughter is not only a great tool for de-stressing, but it can also help your immune function, lower blood pressure and improve cardiac health. Now that is no laughing matter, right? Laughing out loud is pretty powerful. Turn on a fun comedy that leaves you in stitches.
Laughter is great for lifting any dull situation or mood, it is bound to put the spring back into your step. Regularly watching comedies, live or on television, is a good way of taking your mind of the mundane everyday things that stress you out.
5. Clean Up Your Diet
Look at what you’re eating. A clean diet of mostly whole foods that’s low in sugars and preservatives will nourish your body and fight much of the damage stress causes. It will also help you feel calmer and more in control. Start making some small changes and see if you don’t start to feel better.
Sugar is particularly bad when it comes to mood control and can affect levels of anxiety. A poor diet means that you’re not getting enough of the right nutrients, which can lead to mental health issues. A Flexitarian Diet is a good healthy diet option to consider as it focuses on eating a lot of healthy whole foods, fruits and vegetables.
A great book that we have discovered is Spoon-Fed by Tim Specter, who is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK Registry at Kings College, London. It’s an eye-opener and will change the way you think about food. You can find Spoon Fed on Amazon here.
6. Spend Time in Nature
Nature is good for the soul and has a calming effect on the mind, there is no question about that. This is especially true for water as it somehow can wash away worry in our experience. It’s one of the best ways to get rid of negative energy so spend time outside in a park, by the ocean or lake, in the garden or if you can go away for a few days to a nature location from time to time.
7. Find a Hobby that Helps you De-Stress
Hobbies are very personal, some find mental refuge in long-distance running others in knitting so finding a hobby that takes your mind off things is a great way to de-stress. When you focus on something other than what causes stress in your life, you’ll find that it creates space for positive energy to flow.
It’s important to find a hobby that makes you happy, and no watching re-runs of sitcoms on television can’t be classified as a hobby!
8. Connect with Uplifting People
The people in your life or isolation might be adding to your stress levels. Especially friends, colleagues and family who create a lot of drama around you, without real connection.
You’ll spot these people quite easily as they will usually be talking about some kind of disastrous problem they have whenever you see them, or they will be spreading terrible gossip amongst friends.
You don’t necessarily have to stop being friends with them unless the relationship is causing you a lot of stress or harm of course, but prioritising those people who lift you will help you deal with stress more effectively.
We all have troubles from time-to-time so supporting your friends during hardship is important – you’d hope they’d do the same for you if you need it. But constant drama and stress are different from someone who needs a helping hand during a, particularly difficult time.
Time is precious, be wise who you share it with! Focus on building uplifting connections that put a smile on your face.