Stress is nothing more than a simple reaction to things in our environment which we feel are causing an adverse effect within our lives. This could be anything from feeling anxious about upcoming events where there is a lot of pressure to do well, or feeling overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities you have to oversee. While feeling stressed under pressure is perfectly natural, and can actually be useful for improving focus and putting the mind and body on high alert, chronic stress can be detrimental to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Being stressed takes a tremendous toll on the body, as the internal systems can’t function normally. For example, your metabolism slows down, and people are more prone to feelings of depression or experiencing mood swings when they are affected by chronic stress.
Luckily, there are several simple things that you can do to improve your reaction to stress-inducing events and triggers in daily life, or to help you to deal with feelings of stress when they do arise.
Often when people experience stress, the last thing they want to do is be active, but in actual fact, getting moving may be the very thing you need to clear your mind and wash away your stresses. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins in the body, which is the hormone which reduces feelings of stress, balances mood, and creates a euphoric feeling within the body. Exercise also increases metabolism, to help to body function better, so that you feel physically better equipped to deal with stress, as well as emotionally relaxed.
Sports can be a great way to let out your frustrations, and focus your mind on something other than the causes of your stress. If you want a more physically draining activity that will help you to express yourself more, then you might like to try a contact sport such as boxing or football. Alternatively, more precise sports which will help you to clear your mind would be something such as archery or golf. If you haven’t tried these sports before, it doesn’t matter: you can just start at a beginner’s level, and get the best equipment available to you (such as using game improvement irons for golf).
For a more individual activity, the gym is also a great place to get active, and you can tailor your workout to your individual needs. Try running on the treadmill, or using other cardio-intensive machines to increase your heart rate, and get your body moving. Alternatively, for something less intensive and lower impact, you could try swimming, or a more relaxing gym activity, such as yoga or Pilates. These activities give your body an all-over workout, while keeping your mind calm and focused.
Failing that, if you feel that you don’t have the time for organized sports or for a stint at the gym, then why not just go out on a nice scenic walk, either on your own, or with the family. Just getting your body moving, and being outside in nature will really help you to de-stress and calm your mind; plus, it is also a great way to spend some time with your family outside of the house.
Changing your environment
Your environment can be both a cause of stress, and can also exacerbate feelings of stress which are caused by other means. By improving the conditions of your environment, and creating a space which is more conducive to productive work and relaxation, you might find that you start to feel less overwhelmed and that your mood improves. One way to make your environment better is to declutter and clean your home, as having an overcrowded house can make you feel as though you are living in a cramped and intolerable environment. You may also want to try and take breaks outside as often as you can, as spending too much time within the same enclosed space can be stressful to the mind. While on your work break, why not head outside the office and eat your lunch out in the open? A change of environment is often exactly what you need when you are feeling under pressure, as it gives you the space you need to think, and can stimulate the formation of new ideas.
Food and Drink
The food and drink that you consume may be having more of an effect on your mental and physical capabilities than you realize, including your ability to deal with stress. When work deadlines are looming ever closer, or you have a stack of bills that you need to pay, your first thought might be to reach for that extra large tub of ice cream which is calling to you from the freezer, or to pour yourself another glass of wine to make you feel better. However, the truth of the matter is, these types of habits can actually feed your stress levels rather than reduce them.
Alcohol, for one thing, numbs the receptors in the brain, making it much more difficult to process information. This means that your problem-solving abilities are dramatically reduced, meaning that you may struggle to figure your way out of whatever problems are causing your stress in the first place. However, don’t think that means you should go and drink a gallon of coffee instead, as stimulants such as sugar and caffeine keep your neurons firing rapidly, making you feel buzzy and restless. This reaction puts you on high alert, and actually increases your stress levels are the brain isn’t able to relax, meaning it’s much more difficult for your mind to feel calm.
You can combat these issues by making changes to your diet. For example, herbal tea is very relaxing, and therefore can be great for reducing stress, and you can get whichever type of herbs you feel will be best for the feelings you are experiencing. For example, chamomile tea is great for insomnia, anxiety and stress. For energy release, instead of going for foods with a high sugar quantity, try eating whole grains, and these will release energy slowly over a long period of time, reducing the mood swings associated with yo-yo-ing blood sugar levels.
You may think it’s your job, your car breaking down, or even your kids running riot which is causing all of your stress. However, while these might be surface stressors, chronic stress can be caused by a build-up of repressed emotions. Therefore, finding ways to express yourself can be really beneficial in reducing feelings of anxiety and stress. For example, you could try getting your emotions out though artist expression, such as in the form of painting, singing, or creative writing.
Alternatively, you could do something such as keep a journal, so that you can let out any thoughts or events which might be contributing to your stress. You could also do activities such as dance which allow you to physically express yourself. Even just picking up a hobby which you haven’t been able to do in a long time is a method of self-expression, as you are doing something that you love, and is a part of your identity.
Altering your mindset
People often work themselves up into a state of stress without even realizing it, as negative thoughts and feelings can actually add to the stressor which so causing you to feel anxious. Therefore, the best thing you can do in this situation is to alter your mindset, to allow you to see things from a more positive perspective.
The first, and easiest way to do this would be through visualization. This is a concept which simply relies on you taking a few moments to imagine whatever thoughts or images you need to help you de-stress. For example, some people go to a ‘happy place,’ such as somewhere they love from their childhood, or simply a peaceful spot, in their mind, where they can get away from their stress for a few seconds to think clearly. Other people like to visualize positive outcomes, such as believing that they will get all their work done on time. Visualization is just a simpler form of meditation, which is another proven technique for reducing stress. Even just the simple act of smiling, whether warranted or not, is actually considered to reduce stress, as looking positive on the outside is thought to lead to feeling positive on the inside.
If you feel that you are experiencing chronic stress which can’t be combated through positive visualization, then you could always try some different therapies. For example, you could try counseling, as talking to someone about the different causes of your stress may help you to unload some of the burden. There are also more advances in psychological therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a technique used to reprogram unhelpful thought processes, so that people can approach difficult situations with more confidence and less fear. Alternatively, you could try something like Reiki healing, and alternative spiritual therapy which focuses on changing energy patterns in the body, and removing emotional blockages.