It’s no secret that modern life is full of stress triggers, from traffic to Facebook pressure to overbooked schedules. The types of stress that affect us on a daily basis include physical stress from overworking, mental stress from trying to do too much, emotional stress from loneliness, and several more. While many of us become accustomed to living at high stress levels and think that it’s “just the way things are,” chronic stress and anxiety can seriously harm your health and wellbeing. Sleep dysfunction, heart disease, depression, ulcers, and other health issues have been linked to high stress levels, making stress management more important than ever before. Not sure how to keep your stress in check? Take a look at these 7 top tips to help manage stress.
#1. Take a timeout
The signs of stress vary from person to person. The signs may include headaches, insomnia, irritability, a feeling of overwhelm, or overreaction to petty annoyances. When you notice your own signs of stress, step away and take a timeout. Go for a walk, meditate, or listen to music. Even if it’s brief, taking a break can help clear your head and significantly lower your stress level in the moment.
#2. Breathe deeply
When you can’t remove yourself from a stressful situation, such as a speech or presentation, breathing deeply through it is the next best thing. Slow, deep breaths send a message to your brain that it’s time to calm down, thereby triggering your body’s relaxation response. Your heartbeat slows, your muscles release tension, and your blood pressure decreases. Doing breathing exercises daily can help reduce chronic stress and anxiety and give you more bandwidth to cope in stressful situations.
#3. Exercise regularly
Physical exercise combats stress in a number of ways. It releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and provide feelings of euphoria and wellbeing. Exercise also gets us out of the head and into the body, allowing us to step back from the stress and focus on something else. Additionally, physical exercise reduces tension and improves sleep, resulting in an overall decrease in stress. No need to spend hours at the gym to get the benefits. Even just a few minutes of aerobic exercise provide stress-busting relief.
#4. Get sufficient sleep
Some sleep difficulties are the result of high stress levels. But the opposite is also true. Stress can be caused or exacerbated by a lack of sleep. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that adults who get less than 8 hours of sleep are more prone to feeling irritable and overwhelmed than those who get 8 hours or more per night. Prioritizing sleep is an important part of keeping your stress levels to a minimum.
#5. Say No
One of simplest ways to eliminate stress is to create space in your day. Knowing that you can take your time with a task allows you to slow down and focus on what you’re doing in the moment rather than rushing through to the next thing. But creating space often requires setting boundaries by saying no to additional responsibilities, obligations, or even social events. Saying no can be difficult, especially in the moment, so try responding to requests by saying, “Let me look at my calendar,” or “Let me think about it and get back to you.” That way, you can assess whether or not saying yes will leave you feeling overwhelmed or overcommitted before you respond.
#6. Eat healthy
Believe it or not, food can actually help fight stress. Foods high in vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. The B vitamins found in avocados and the amino acid tryptophan found in turkey both combat anxiety and promotes feelings of calmness. Limiting your intake of caffeine, refined sugar, and high-sodium foods will also help keep stress at bay.
#7. Limit alcohol consumption
While it may help calm your nerves to have a drink or two at the end of a stressful day, long-term alcohol use can actually compound the effects of stress. Studies have shown that chronic alcohol consumption impairs the body’s ability to “bounce back” from stressful situations, and even induces a hormonal stress response. Long-term alcohol use also increases tolerance and leads to alcohol use disorder, which results in other stresses as well. Exercise, meditation, and yoga and other healthy methods of stress-relief provide benefits in both the short- and long-term.
Are you struggling with stress and anxiety? Help is available.
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, worry, and anxiety that persist no matter what measures you take to combat them, it could be the sign of an anxiety disorder. At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we offer treatment for a wide range of mental health disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction disorder, and other disorders whose symptoms can negatively impact your quality of life. Our skilled physicians and mental health professionals use an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to create a customized treatment plan for every patient. Through our comprehensive inpatient and outpatient programs, you can learn to manage your symptoms and live a healthy, productive life. For more information on our programs and services, fill out the contact form on our website or call our crisis line at 619-667-6125 today.