Life is stressful, and there are few ways to avoid it. Parenting, careers, family, finances, relationships — it adds up and can get you feeling anxious and run down sometimes. It’s important to do everything you can to ensure you’re managing the stress and anxiety in your world, so here are ten great tips to help:
It’s amazing how much better your body and mind can cope with the craziness of life if you’ve had a full and good night’s rest. Quality is just as important as quantity, so put away electronics at least thirty minutes before bedtime, drink a soothing warm milk or camomile tea, take a relaxing warm bath and try to clear your mind before shutting your eyes. Go to bed early enough to ensure you get 8-10 hours of restful sleep every day.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Skipping breakfast, snacking at your desk instead of taking a healthy lunch break and eating fast food for dinner all contribute to your body and mind’s inability to cope. Consuming full, balanced meals of healthy power foods keeps you physically and mentally strong and satisfied with proper nutrition.
Science has proven that moving your body helps minimize stress and anxiety. Doing it outside in nature adds bonus points. Whether you do your exercise in your basement, at the gym or on outdoor trails, it’s all great for producing endorphins, the brain chemicals that do all kinds of great stuff like reduce pain or improve sleep and therefore, lower stress.
Sometimes all you need is time away from everything, and everyone, causing you stress. Lock the bathroom door and enjoy a bubble bath with a good book and soothing music, a massage or a night out with friends. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others who understand and are probably facing similar challenges helps you feel less alone, and that lowers stress, so try to stay connected in person with those who care about you.
Limit Consumption of Caffeine, Alcohol and Sugar
Many actually turn to these vices in times of stress, because they taste good and provide immediate gratification. Unfortunately, alcohol is a depressant, caffeine can increase anxiety and sugar causes an initial high but then plummets your mood and often leaves you feeling tired and moody when the rush wears off. Try to avoid completely, or at least moderate your intake of this trio.
Stress is all about cortisol, another brain chemical. In normal circumstances, a controlled amount of cortisol is released to make your muscles work, but stress causes cortisol to be thrown out in excessive amounts. Yoga, the practise of mindful, controlled body positioning and breathing patterns, helps our bodies focus on staying in a calm, relaxed state, which lets your brain know that a cortisol infusion is not required and keeps your feelings of stress and anxiety at a manageable level.
Human bodies are incredible machines, but sometimes factors outside our bodies can trigger fight-or-flight responses where our brains and bodies react in a primal way as though we are at risk of death. Meditation is a way to sit quietly for at least ten minutes each day and focus on a word or short phrase, or a single positive thought or memory while breathing deeply and blocking out all other thoughts, ideas and sounds. This trains your body to relax, even in times of heightened stress. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and that’s why it should be done on a daily basis, at least two hours before or after eating (to avoid digestive issues) and in a quiet space.
If exercise, yoga or even meditation don’t fit your schedule or preferences, the bare minimum you can try is mindful breathing. It’s a technique used to control breathing patterns and subsequently soothe your body’s stress response mechanisms. Deep breaths through your nose for a count of four, holding the breath in for a count of four, exhaling slowly through the mouth for a count of four and waiting to begin again for a count of four is all that’s required. It doesn’t take extra time, a special space or specific clothing; you can do it anywhere without anyone knowing and quickly feel calmer.
Manage Your Mind
Being a perfectionist or expecting others to be perfect is only going to disappoint everyone involved. Negative thoughts happen, but one of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety is to have a list of positive counter-thoughts ready to clap back with when those pessimistic thoughts come creeping into your head.
Talk to a Doctor, Therapist, Help Line or Clergy
If you’re doing all of the above and still feel a heavyweight of stress or anxiety, there could be a more serious issue involved, so speak to your doctor about it, or see a professional trained to assist you with managing stress and anxiety. There’s no shame in getting help.