Every April since 1992, Stress Awareness Month has been observed. Finding healthy ways to cope with our stress and get through these times can help us live a positive and healthy life. Because stress affects our bodies and all facets of our lives, it’s important to cope with it properly.
How do you define stress?
While we all experience stress. It is, after all, a natural response. But, how we deal with it may differ. As a result, stress has no one-size-fits-all definition. However, the American Institute of Stress states the most common is, “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.”
Another well-known definition of stress is, “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
The American Institute of Stress goes on to state that, for most people, stress is defined as anything that causes distress. In some cases, however, stress may actually be beneficial, like increasing productivity or dealing with an emergency. “A definition of stress should also embrace this type of healthy stress, which is usually ignored when you ask someone about their definition of stress,” they add.
Defining stress should also include the concept of eustress, or good stress. As an example, winning a race or election causes as much stress as losing it. The stress of contemplating what might follow a passionate kiss is nothing like having a root canal. Similar distinctions should be made between eustress and distress in any definition of stress.
How stress affects your life.
Regardless of how you define stress, when not addressed, stress can lead to a wide range of symptoms including;
Weakened immune system
Low sex drive and reproductive problems
Considering that Americans are one of the most stressed out in the world, stress should be dealt with sooner than later. In fact, American stress levels currently rank 20 percentage points above global averages.
With that in mind, here are 16 simple and effective ways to cope and relieve your stress.
1. Learn how to deal with issues you cannot change.
The stress in our lives is sometimes beyond our control. The Federal Occupational Health recommends that you change your approach to problems during these times.
Let go of the things you don't have control of.
Keep your anxiety at bay when you can't change a situation.
Keeping your mind focused on something that makes you feel calm and helps you control your reactions.
Create realistic goals for your personal growth, wellness, and healthy living.
2. Practice the “Big Three.”
There is a reason why exercise, a healthy diet, and enough sleep are always listed as preventative measures. These three habits are key to a happy, healthy life and they have a significant impact on stress levels.
Stress can be naturally combated by eating fresh, whole foods. Stress can be exacerbated by stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, which can interrupt sleep and exacerbate the body's response to stress.
By exercising regularly, blood pressure is lowered and stress is relieved in a healthy way. Swimming, walking, and jogging are among the most effective forms of exercise. Try to exercise moderately five times a week for 30 minutes.
In addition to making managing stressful situations harder, inadequate sleep can increase depression and anxiety. To help establish a healthy sleeping routine, make sure all electronics are turned off 30 minutes before bed, as well as finding a calming nighttime ritual, such as reading or meditation. The ritual will prepare your mind to relax and sleep peacefully.
3. Minimize phone use and screen time.
Mobile devices, computers, and tablets play an essential role in many people's everyday lives. At the same time, using these devices too often can lead to increased stress levels, even though they are often necessary.
Excessive smartphone usage and "iPhone addiction" have been linked to mental health disorders and increased stress levels.
Screen time, in general, leads to lower psychological well-being and higher levels of stress in children and adults. In addition, excessive screen time may adversely affect sleep, which may lead to heightened levels of stress.
4. Try guided imagery.
A guided imagery session is like taking a dream vacation in your head. Imagine yourself in your "happy place,” such as relaxing on a beach, listening to the waves, smelling the sea, and feeling the warm sand beneath your feet.
Listening to a recording can be used for guided imagery, where you hear someone stroll you through a relaxing scene. Alternatively, you can practice guided imagery on your own once you have learned how to do it.
Let your eyes close for a minute and let them wander through a peaceful scene. Consider all the sensory experiences you would have and imagine yourself being there in person. Reopen your eyes after a few minutes.
5. Relaxation exercises.
These are simple exercises designed to elicit the "relaxation response.” As explained in Harvard Health, this technique was first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson and is “a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways,” such as:
Deep, long breaths.
As you focus on your breathing, conduct a body scan by “focusing on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there.”
Mindfulness meditation is where you sit comfortably, focus on your breathing and bring your attention to the present.
Yoga, tai chai, gigong which are ancient arts that “combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements.”
Repetitive prayer where “you silently repeat a short prayer or phrase from a prayer while practicing breath focus.”
6. Make time for hobbies.
Set aside time to do things you like. You'll feel better if you do something each day that makes you happy. You don't have to spend a lot of time on it either. About 15 to 20 minutes is enough.
There are many relaxing hobbies to choose from, including;
Watching a movie
Creating an art project
Playing cards and board games
7. Assert yourself.
Saying "No" to requests for your time and energy will reduce your stress levels. Remember, you don't feel obligated to always fulfill others' expectations of you.
You may not realize it, but simply smiling improves your mood. Laughter is also good for your health and a great way to beat stress. Enjoy an instant mood lift by watching a funny show/movie, or finding a funny video online.
9. Spend time in nature.
You may also be able to reduce stress by spending more time outside. Researchers have found that being immersed in nature and spending time in green spaces such as parks and forests can help people cope with stress.
In a review of 14 studies, it was found that spending as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting could have a positive influence on psychological and physiological markers of mental well-being in college-aged individuals, including stress perception and happiness.
Despite being excellent options, hiking and camping are not for everyone. Fortunately, you can find green space in urban areas like local parks, arboretums, and botanical gardens.
10. Receive a hug from a loved one.
Physical touch can relieve a great deal of stress. Being hugged by someone you love is especially soothing.
Additionally, oxytocin causes a reduction in blood pressure. By reducing norepinephrine, it reduces stress.
Please do not be afraid to ask for a hug from a family member or friend if you need one. This can be a good stress reliever for you both, and it is quite simple.
11. Bond with your pet.
Studies have shown that even a short period of time with a companion animal can significantly reduce anxiety levels.
12. Enjoy aromatherapy.
The use of aromatherapy can help relieve stress, allowing you to feel more relaxed, energized, or present in the present moment.
A growing body of research suggests that certain scents can alter brain wave activity and decrease stress hormones.
Consider incorporating aromatherapy into your daily life, whether you prefer candles, diffusers, or body products.
13. Take a vacation.
Getting away from the pressures of everyday life can reset your stress tolerance by enhancing your mental and emotional outlook. As a result, this leads to a more optimistic and productive outlook upon your return.
Even an overnight getaway should suffice. But, if this isn’t possible, at least plan something that you’re looking forward to. Some ideas would be grabbing dinner with a friend, going to a concert or sporting event, or taking the kids to the zoo.
You can sometimes decompress and clear your mind just by writing down whatever is on your mind. This may even help you figure out what really stresses you out so you can deal with it.
Alternatively, you can keep a gratitude journal. By focusing on the positive, you can reduce stress and anxiety.
15. Identify and eliminate stress triggers.
Find out what your biggest stressors are. Does it relate to your job, your commute, or your studies? You might be able to eliminate or at least reduce them from your life if you can identify them. For instance, if it’s your commute, ask if you could work remotely one or two days a week.
You might benefit from keeping a stress journal if you are unable to pinpoint the main source of your stress. You may be able to recognize a pattern in when you feel most anxious, and then you can reduce or eliminate the triggers.
16. Consult a therapist, coach, or counselor.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts, it's time to seek professional help. Please don’t delay either. If stress has impacted your daily life, it’s time to schedule an appointment today.