Stress Less

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Stress is part and parcel of life. If it's not one thing it's another. However, stress shouldn’t take over our minds, our lives, and our ability to cope.

Taking your stress levels down a notch is easier said than done when you’re overwhelmed. While stress may seem like a fact of adult life, it’s not something that we need to just accept or ignore. In fact, sky-high stress levels can harm your mental and physical health over the long term, leading to high blood pressure, lack of sleep, and heightened anxiety. It can also interfere with your productivity and relationships. While it’s not realistic to eliminate all sources of stress, you can learn to find a balance between taking stressors off your plate and accomplishing what needs to get done.

Here are some ways to reduce stress:

1. Perform deep breathing exercises

Deep Breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, is a common and effective stress relief technique. This type of breathing requires you to use your diaphragm to take deep breaths. It allows your lungs to function fully, which doesn’t occur when you simply breathe normally. Your belly, rather than your chest, will expand to engage your diaphragm. According to a 2017 study published in the National Library of Medicine, diaphragmatic breathing can have a positive effect on sustained attention and cortisol levels — known as the stress hormone — by triggering relaxation responses. Also commonly called belly breathing or abdominal breathing, deep breathing is also associated with reducing your blood pressure and heart rate, which can be tied to stress levels too.

2. Meditate

Meditation is the practice of focusing on your body while focusing on the present moment. Mindfulness and meditation are effective stress relief methods that can also help improve sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and lower heart rate. There are many types of mediation, but the simplest form involves sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath — gently pushing away intrusive thoughts if they arise. If you’re a beginner at meditation, know that distractions abound, but meditating gets easier every time you practice. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace can help you get started and make meditation a habit.

3. Move your body

There’s no getting around the fact that getting regular exercise is good for physical/mental health and a sense of well-being. It can promote a positive outlook and help to reduce symptoms of anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults, which may seem like a lot, but when divided by 5 or 7 days, it breaks down to only 30 or 20 minutes per day, respectively. Consider making a morning walk around your neighborhood a daily habit.

4. Be Mindful of the Joy in Your life

Studies have shown that spending time reflecting on things that bring you joy, like spending time with your pet, cooking, or going for a walk on a sunny day. Other activities like sharing a nice conversation with a friend over a cup of tea, or spending time in your garden and listening to the chirping of the birds. It doesn’t take a lot to experience a sense of joy if you let your mind marinate in the feeling and let it internalize. Additionally practicing gratitude is a tremendous well-being booster

5. Set boundaries and stick to them

One of the most common culprits of high stress is over-committing. One way to start prioritizing your mental health is to set boundaries. For example, you might make it a point to leave work at work and sign off completely for the night so that you can be present when it’s time to switch your focus to personal time. Additionally, try not to be afraid to say no to helping out friends and family if it interferes with your plans or you don’t have the capacity for it.

6. Get enough sleep

It’s not a coincidence that a not-so-great day turns into a terrible day if you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of depression and stress.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting 7-9 hrs of sleep at night. A few things that will help you achieve that golden slumber number:

  • go to bed at the same time every night

  • avoid scrolling on your phone in bed by leaving your devices in another room

  • limit daytime naps.

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