Stress is inevitable, but for many of us, the last year has been overwhelming. We are built to withstand a little stress but experiencing it over a prolonged amount of time can lead to sickness, both mentally and physically. With the start of a new year, we want to encourage you to take time and focus on YOU! It is important to incorporate moments of self-care so that you can combat stress and sickness.
What happens to your body when you are stressed?
When you feel threatened a chemical reaction happens, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. Your heart rate increases, your breathing rate increases, your muscles tighten, and your blood pressure rises. While this may be fine for short bursts, prolonged periods can be taxing on the body and cause or exacerbate many health problems:
- Depressions and anxiety
- Heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Skin problems
Steps you can take to manage stress
While you can’t completely avoid stressful situations, there is a lot that you can do to lessen the effects. Here are 10 tips to make managing your stress easier:
- Exercise Regularly – it helps to increase the production of endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These endorphins can exhilarate and relax to help counter depression and reduce stress. If you don’t currently exercise regularly, set a goal of working out 2-3 times a week for about 30 minutes and then build from there.
- Do Deep Breathing – deep breathing has a great calming effect and helps to decrease your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Deep breathing exercises are simple and can be done almost anywhere. Find a place you can relax and close your eyes; imagine yourself in a relaxing place; Take deep breaths, making sure to expand the lungs and exhale slowly. Doing it for just a few minutes can have a profound effect on reducing stress.
- Get A Massage – massages ease the tension in your muscles, helping you to feel relaxed. Incorporating regular massage sessions can go a long way in combating the effects of stress.
- Take More Trips – being able to get away, even for short periods can do wonders on improving your mental health. Going on frequent, extended vacations may not be financially possible, but focusing on doing at least one a year is beneficial. Between vacations you can take shorter, overnight trips. Make sure these trips are truly times that you can relax…you may need to think about leaving the kids at home!
- Eat Well – you need to make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet and that you are eating a lot of natural, unprocessed foods. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take moments and indulge in life’s luxuries, but you want to make sure those are just moments and not a frequent occurrence.
- Listen to Music – a 2021 study showed that adults who listened to both personal and neutral selections of music, at home and in a laboratory environment, had significantly “reduced cortisol (the stress hormone) levels.” This was found regardless of the music type. Music also has the ability to release endorphins and improve our sense of well-being. Brain Tapping is a great way to reduce stress, because it uses sound to bring down the rapid brain waves that trigger tension while ramping up the brain waves that counteract stress, leaving you feeling calm, motivated, and happy.
- Keep Your Space Tidy – keeping your home and workspace neat and tidy can go a long way to reducing your stress level and helping to make you feel better about yourself.
- Make Time for Hobbies – take time for things that you enjoy or set aside time to try something new. It helps take your mind off of things that can cause you stress and helps you focus on things that make you feel good.
- Talk to a Therapist – talking about things that are bothering you can help lower your stress. Talking with a therapist can help ease your mind as well as help to build better coping/stress relief strategies.
Make this year about you and develop healthy habits to promote a better you! Taking time to focus on you will help you live a better, more fulfilled life.