Stress. It’s something that most of us experience yet have a hard time dealing with. You might be thinking, Laila, I would love to be less stressed but I don’t know how to or have the time. Well, this article is for you because I’ve briefly explained why we need to better cope with it and included five ways you can start dealing with stress today. Or, you may be thinking, Laila, I’m not really very stressed, or I think I handle it just fine. To which my answer is: great! – this is still the article for you because stress is a sneaky beast and it likes to hide. Many of us are experiencing stress and aren’t aware of it until it hits us unawares or manifests in other ways. So read on and learn the ways you can start beating stress.
Why is Stress Such a Problem
Stress is an uncomfortable feeling but most of us have just accepted it as a fact of life and learned to live with it. It actually has a significant impact on our health and chronic stress, or the state of living in regular stress, can cause long-term harm. The way your body responds to stress is critical to its survival when faced with a perceived threat. Think about it, if you’re attacked by a bear, your body won’t be too concerned about digesting that burger, getting a good night’s rest, fighting off an infection or aiding your reproductive system. Those parts of your body take a back seat just so you can survive. Once the danger has passed, your body will go back to normal. The problem is when we are in a regular state of stress, that homeostasis is never fully achieved. Our bodies live in a perpetual fight or flight mode with the following consequences: weight gain, sleep problems, digestive problems, poor immune function, anxiety, depression, heart disease and difficulties with memory and concentration. Fun stuff, right? You can read more about it here
. The solution isn’t to remove all stress, or stressors, from our life because I don’t think that’s realistic. Rather, I think it’s more effective to learn how to deal with stress effectively. Here are initial steps you can take to start reducing your stress level.
#1: Exercise & Movement
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Depending on your personality type and what your body needs, you may require more intensity in your movement regime to relieve that excess stress or something calmer. If you have a fairly sedate lifestyle right now, try increasing intensity by getting your heart rate going: you can increase your walking speed, put on some music and dance at home or do outdoor activities like swimming, bike riding, skiing, hiking. You can even just stream a cardio workout online. If you’re already fairly active, you might need something to calm your body down: try yoga, tai chi or nature walking. Wherever you’re at with your fitness level, just try something that speaks to you, anything; experiment and have fun. The point is to be active. You can do this.
I will be the first to admit that meditation is hard for me. I’m the kind of person who likes to sit with her thoughts and let them wander, so it’s always been challenging for me to spend time focusing on clearing my mind. That being said, I have noticed that when I make a habit of meditating daily (even for ten minutes a day), it has a noticeable impact on my mental health. I feel calmer, in better control of my thoughts, and fall asleep more easily. I like the app Headspace
but there are many free apps available or guided meditations on Youtube.
#3: Deep Breathing
I like this practice because you can do it any time you want to feel calmer. If I notice I’m holding my breath, am rushing, or am just generally a little stressed over something, I take a moment and do some deep breathing exercises until I feel my heart rate slow down. Always try to breath into your belly, not your chest. A belly breath is much deeper and invites more oxygen into your body. The popular 4-7-8
exercise is always good. When my husband has difficulty falling asleep, he will do the following: Count 1 as you inhale, then 2 as you exhale, then 3 with the inhale, all the way up to a count of ten and then start at 1 again. He says he rarely gets through it more than two or three cycles before falling asleep. Try noticing how taking a quiet moment to breath deeply has an affect on your mental state.
Is it any real surprise that I’m going to write about food here? The food we eat can either help and nourish our bodies, or put stress on it. The more stressors we consume (refined sugar, processed foods, fried foods – cookies, chips, crackers, pop), the harder it is for our body to cope. At the same time, when we eat whole, nourishing foods (think dark leafy greens, lots of vegetables, fruits, good protein sources, healthy fats, whole grains) we better enable our body to cope with stress. If you consume caffeine daily, your adrenals might be having a hard time being pushed so regularly, so reducing or eliminating caffeine may be something for you to consider. Need help getting started on incorporating more healthy foods? You can check out my post on Getting Started on Healthy Eating
#5: Positive Relationships
A positive relationship can really nourish us emotionally. We all need to laugh with others, to love another and be loved, to offer support and be supported. And even though we may have people in our lives we can do this with, we sometimes forget to actually dedicate time towards this kind of nourishment. Try to plan for time where you can go have a visit with friends, or a date with your significant other, or an activity with family. These things may not happen every day but try to make them regular because the joy we get from these relationships helps us cope with difficulties in our lives and gives an overall feeling of wellness. Don’t feel you have such a relationship? Go out there and try to find one! Join a class, or an interest group, or something so that you can start making connections.
This week, try to incorporate at least one tip for de-stressing and see how you feel. The more regularly you do it, the more of an impact it can make on your life.
Got any other tips to de-stress? What’s your favourite way to nourish yourself or relieve stress?
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