We are so accustomed to living every day at a heightened level of stress that many of us aren’t even aware of it. Pinpointing the cause is key to combating stress, but often the cause or causes of stress are unavoidable. So rather than quit your job, check out of your family or sell your home, follow these 14 easy ways to get rid of stress, suggested by The National Mental Health Association and Elizabeth Svoboda, a reporter on MSNBC. Whichever methods you try, make sure to plan to de-stress and you’ll be able to face each day feeling younger and with renewed energy.
#1 – Be realistic
If you feel overwhelmed by all of your activities, learn to say no to adding any more commitments.
#2 – Don’t be a perfectionist
No one is perfect, so give yourself a break by deciding what must be done correctly now, what can be put off, what can be delegated and with which projects you can ask for help.
#3 – Focus on the present
Looking directly at the task you are working to accomplish right now instead of worrying about your whole to-do list will work wonders for your level of anxiety.
#4 – You are important, too
Purposefully schedule time every week to do something that you enjoy – not just another task on the list, but a yoga class, an activity with friends, playtime with your kids, soaking in the tub or taking a walk. Time for yourself is important for releasing stress.
#5 – Exercise
You hear it from every source these days, but exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good. And you don’t have to go to the gym and sweat for an hour, even little ten minute brisk walks throughout the day to get the heart pumping and renew your energy and focus will lessen your stress load.
#6 – Eat well
What you put in your body will often define how you feel. Eating processed foods deadens energy in the body. Instead, eat a healthy salad with a dose of protein like chicken or fish, and as a general rule, choose whole foods.
#7 – Talk it out
Sharing how you really feel is key to keeping things from bottling up inside and stressing you out more. Even if it’s just a five-minute phone call at work to vent, it will make your day go that much better. Also, keep in touch with friends and family as much as possible.
#8 – Get a massage
Probably the most effective way to relax your muscles is to get a massage, whether it be a 15-minute chair massage at the mall or a full-hour stone massage.
#9 – Counseling
Although some people feel a stigma from seeing a counselor, everyone who’s done it will testify to the worthiness of just spending time working through your issues with an expert. Even something as small as learning to balance and prioritize can be easier with help from a professional counselor who can offer insights into your behavior.
#10 – Listen up
Doctors at Japan’s Osaka Medical Center have found that listening to music helps lower stress levels. Put together a soothing mix on your iPod and listen to it while you drive or at work.
#11 – Get your beauty sleep
The recommended eight hours of sleep really does help your body recover from the day and prepare for the next by keeping cortisone, a hormone that raises physiological stress, at lower levels in your bloodstream. If you only get six or seven hours of sleep several days in a row, the cortisol in your body will be 50 percent higher, according to a study involving cortisol levels in pilots.
#12 – Drink tea
Volunteers at the University College London were given a stressful task, and those who regularly consumed black tea felt significantly less stressed within an hour after completing the task, while those who were not regular tea-drinkers had a slower rate of de-stressing after the job was complete.
#13 – Laugh it up
Spend time with people who make you laugh – their mere presence will make you more relaxed.
#14 – Chew gum
At those moments when you feel intense stress, gum chewing can help keep the hormones causing your anxiety from shooting up.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Joe A. Thomas, of the Texas A & M Health Science Center, asks the stressed how often they are able to get a good night’s sleep, and whether they feel rested when they wake up. He also lists these symptoms as probable signs of stress:
- muscle aches and pains from tension
- skin problems
- digestive difficulties
- back pain
- sleep problems.
Though the problems listed can be symptoms of many types of disease, often there is a simple answer: a stressful life.
“Mental stresses are characterized by such things as worries over money, or over a loved one’s health, loss of a loved one or losing a job,” according to Dr. Rob Danduff of Discovery Health. “Physical stresses include a lack of sleep, poor diet or the effects of an illness.” He also mentions that obligations, whether real or imagined, are a heavy burden and can cause stress.
Whatever is causing the stress, the reaction in the human body is the same: the fight-or-flight response.
Your body tenses up, ready to either defend or run away quickly. The fight or flight response is nature’s way of making sure we can get out of tough situations, such as a life-threatening encounter with a wild animal. It is meant to be a temporary coping mechanism. When the danger passes, the response subsides.
The problem with modern life is that the tough or stressful situation isn’t always temporary.
A tense job situation, an upsetting relationship, money problems, children who act out, and so much more are examples of ongoing, high-stress situations from which we cannot readily escape. If you are in circumstances like any of these, the fight or flight response becomes continuous, and soon cortisol (the hormone of stress) becomes permanently elevated. When this happens, your health and your waistline are in jeopardy.
Constant stress is the state of being in that high-alert mode as an ongoing state, over many hours each day.
“Your body simply cannot sustain this type of stress without some sort of side effect, whether it’s tension headaches, stiff upper-back muscles or trouble sleeping. And if the stresses cannot be decreased or addressed in a healthy manner, your body may experience such health problems as high blood pressure and heart disease,” said Dr. Danduff. One of the biggest effects of prolonged stress is the acceleration of aging.
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