Stress is an inevitable part of life. We all experience stress at some point, whether it’s due to work relationships, finances or so many other things. The reality is some stress can be beneficial – it can make you more motivated or make changes for the better, but prolonged stress can negatively affect your health and well-being.
1. Get a workout in
Moving your body is a great way to fight off those stressful feelings. Exercise helps give an outlet for the physical and emotional tension that builds up – after an intense workout sesh, your body releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that reduce the feelings of stress and poor mood. And it helps increase blood flow to your brain to improve mental clarity and focus. The movement you do doesn’t have to be an intense workout – even light to moderate exercises like walking, biking or yoga helps amplify endorphins.
2. Spend time with family and friends
When our stress levels increase, we tend to close ourselves off. Consider reaching out to a family member or friend when you feel down. Social connections are a great way to relieve stress because they provide a safe space to unload and unwind. When you spend time with people that care – you feel valued and supported, which helps boost confidence and a sense of belonging. Not only that, but spending time with loved ones can also help you relax and have fun. Laughing and talking and engaging in activities that you enjoy can help you feel more positive and upbeat while reducing feelings of stress. It is true that we all need an outlet, so remember to check in with your bestie when times get tough!
3. Eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet
It is important to remember that your diet has a direct impact on all aspects of life, mental health included! By nourishing your body with a nutrient-dense diet, you’re giving your body the quality fuel it needs to better handle both physical and mental stress and feel more resilient in the face of stress. For instance, fruits and veggies help lower cortisol levels, your main stress hormone. Healthy fats reduce inflammation and proteins helps stabilize blood sugars for steady energy and mood. On the flip side, some foods can exacerbate stress levels and increase feelings of nervousness and stress. A diet high in processed foods, caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, raise cortisol and worsen feelings of anxiety.
Reach for nutrient-dense, functional foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to support mind and body wellness. Focusing on whole foods and limiting processed snacks will improve your body’s resilience to stress.
4. Prioritize quality sleep
Sleep is essential for managing stress because it allows your body and mind to rest and recharge. When you sleep, your body repairs damaged tissues, your brain consolidates memories and processes emotions, and your hormones reset for the next day. Without enough sleep, your body and mind can’t function properly, leading to increased stress levels.
In fact, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and decrease levels of serotonin, the hormone associated with happiness and well-being. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, irritability, and depression, making it even harder to manage stress.
On the other hand, getting enough sleep can help you feel more resilient and better equipped to handle stress. A good night’s sleep can improve your mood, increase your focus and productivity, and boost your immune system, all of which can help you manage stress more effectively.
So, if you’re looking to manage stress, don’t forget the importance of sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, establish a consistent sleep routine, and create a comfortable sleep environment. Your body and mind will thank you, and you’ll be better prepared to take on whatever challenges come your way.
5. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
While caffeine can give you a boost in energy, it can also increase stress levels. Caffeine is a stimulant and a little amount can actually have a positive effect on stress – it increases alertness, improves focus and helps with mood so you’re better able to resolve the stressors at hand. But too much or too late in the day can also have negative impacts. Caffeine also increases heart rate and cortisol, which can make you feel more nervous, jittery and irritable, making it harder to manage stress. Not just that, but it can also disrupt your sleep at night. Limit your caffeine intake to 400 mg per day, this equates to about 4 cups of brewed coffee.
6. Keep a Journal
Journaling can be a powerful tool for managing stress. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, it can be hard to make sense of all your thoughts and emotions, but writing is a great way to release any built-up emotion. Putting pen to paper can also help with mental clarity and get perspective on your experience, allowing you to feel more in control and better able to cope with stress. You can make your journal whatever you want it to be, not for anyone else’s reading pleasure! No structure necessary, just a safe and private space to jot down your thoughts and feelings. Just pick up a pen and get those feelings out. This process is also great for self-reflection.
7. Put the phone down
We live in a world ruled by smart phones and computers. Although these devices are necessary, overuse can increase stress levels. Your phone can create a constant stream of notifications and distractions, whether it’s emails, social media alerts or news updates – the constant barrage of information can make it difficult to focus and relax. Consider dedicating time during the day to being present and put the screens away. Utilize the time to prioritize self-care, whatever that means to you! This may consist of a bubble bath, skin care, tidying up your space or listening to your favorite music.