Stress is a normal part of life, and we all experience it to varying degrees. Stress in small amounts for a short period of time can actually be helpful. For example, if you have a deadline to meet at work, stress can help galvanize you into action to accomplish your goal. However, high levels of stress for prolonged periods of time can wear down your body and begin to have a negative impact on your health and well-being. Stress is hard to avoid, so learning how to manage it is important. Here are five simple steps to reduce stress in your life.
Physical activity plays a key role in managing stress. Not only does it reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol, but it also releases endorphins – the neurotransmitters that help us feel good. While it’s most beneficial to have a regular exercise routine in place, even just a few minutes a day of physical activity, such as walking, can make a difference.
Meditation is a time-tested practice that can create a state of deep relaxation by focusing on the moment and letting go of judgment. The calming benefits of meditation may extend beyond your meditation session and into the rest of your day to help you feel more relaxed and centered.
When we feel stress, we often reach for comfort foods that tend to be high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar. While these foods might feel good in the moment, they usually lead to an energy crash that ultimately may make us feel worse and less able to deal with stress. Instead, try to add in nourishing foods that support your mind and body, such as more fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. It’s also wise to watch your caffeine intake, as too much can exacerbate symptoms of stress such as elevating your heart rate or making you feel jittery.
During times of stress, negative thoughts can build with one leading to another, leaving us feeling overwhelmed. Try to avoid this trap by utilizing positive self-talk and supportive affirmations, such as “I can handle this” or “I will get through this” or “I am calm and relaxed.” Reminding ourselves that “this too shall pass” can help us remember that the stress we’re experiencing is temporary, and things will get better.
Taking a deep breath can be one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. When we take deep, slow breaths it sends a signal to our brain to slow down and relax. It can lower our blood pressure, slow down our heart rate and overall help to us feel more calm and balanced.
The next time you’re feeling stressed, try one of these simple steps to help you relax and get back on track.