Stress is a normal response to an intense situation, but chronic stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. Here is a round up of the top ten ways to improve your stress levels:
- Stop over scheduling. Pare your schedule down to a manageable size. Stop saying “yes” when you want to say “no!” Down time is essential to stress management.
- Exercise. This is probably the most recommended practice for stress management. Exercise regulates the stress hormone cortisol, improves insomnia, and helps alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, some types of yoga, or jogging. Consistency is more important than intensity, so break a sweat daily!
- Clean up your diet. Stop overeating or overindulging in fatty, salty, or sweet snacks. Manage stress with a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables (including stress fighting leafy greens), seeds and nuts (like pumpkin seeds and almonds, both proven stress fighters), and lots of liquids.
- Go outside. Horticultural therapy is gaining acceptance as a practice for stress reduction, and it’s no wonder why. Numerous studies indicate the benefits of digging in the dirt, walking in the woods, or playing in the park.
- Volunteer. Volunteers in one study reported that that felt more positive about their lives and less stressed after volunteering. Find a cause you believe in, and go help out. You will feel better!
- Relax. Meditation has been shown to help with anxiety and depression as much as antidepressants. Spend 30 minutes a day breathing in and out in a quiet place and feel the stress melt away.
- Spend time with your social network. Not online! Turn off the TV, put down the smartphone, and go meet a friend for coffee or a walk. People with strong ties in their community report less stress than those without them, so spend some time nurturing your relationships.
- Be grateful. Take a moment every day to say thank you or to write down the things that are wonderful in your life. Sometimes we get so caught up in the whirlwind that we don’t stop to think of how good we really have it. Stop and make a note of the good things in your life. Grateful people are happy people.
- Identify the source of your stress. Figure out what is causing the stress and either work to eliminate it or work to develop better techniques to deal with it.
- Take responsibility. Are you the cause of your stress? Are you keeping up with the Joneses? Are your expectations unrealistic? The only person you can really change is yourself. Change what you can, and let the rest go.
Bonus tip: Ask for help, and get some support. Maybe you have a particularly thorny problem that you just can’t work out by yourself, or maybe you need to talk to a professional. Smart people ask for help when they need it, either in person or online. Don’t be afraid to admit you need help. Sometimes just taking that first step itself can alleviate a lot of the stress!
Tell us: What stress management technique works best for your stress levels?
Image by thephotographymuse via Flickr