5 Tips for Reducing Stress
They say stress is the real killer, and in times like these it’s easy to see why. Chronic stress can cause inflammation, mess up your digestion, cascade into other disorders such as depression, and most importantly for the moment, reduce your immune systems ability to function properly. Knowing how to navigate and manage stress is vital, so here are 5 tips for lowering your stress levels.
Remind Yourself that it’s Okay to be Stressed
The first tip for reducing stress is to remind yourself that it is natural to be stressed, especially in a climate like right now. This may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but accepting that a current bout of stress is happening now helps keep it from increasing. Remember that “stress” is the body activating its flight or fight response towards a dangerous situation, which is perfectly natural and understandable. All of these management tips are about creating an environment to reduce stress; no one has to be perfect, having stress doesn’t mean you’re “failing” at coping, and there are always going to be ups and downs.
Next up is meditation. It might still seem a little too hippy for some, but meditation has been shown repeatedly to work for helping to manage stress. It works by both calming down from stress symptoms you may be experiencing at the moment and by building up a long term resiliency. When you think about it, many of the activities we deem “relaxing” such as netflix binging might not have you move but still involve processing imagery and mental work, whereas meditation actually slows that down. Meditation is a skill like any other, so don’t worry about “not being good at it” initially or only doing it for a few minutes at first, over time you’ll get to a more relaxed state quicker and you’ll be able to do it for longer.
The body is meant to move, and almost all studies on how exercise and stress interact show that. In our cramped apartment and houses exercising can fall to the wayside, but exercise improves your mental health more than just taking your mind off of your worries. Stress boosts your endorphins which directly improves your mood, it gets the lymphatic system moving which will help you feel better, and it improves your self-confidence helping to create a positive feedback loop. Just make sure you are doing something fun, forcing yourself to do pushups and crunches if you think those are torture will just make you procrastinate more.
This one may surprise you, but (sugarfree) chewing gum is actually a long known stress reduction technique. There are several reasons behind this. First of all chewing gum brings blood flow to the brain, which could lead directly or indirectly to stress reduction benefits, in addition to increased cognition and concentration. Second, the face and neck area is a major area where stress is stored and expressed, and so by keeping that area moving you are helping to massage the stress out of your body. Third, the increased saliva production helps wash away plaque and fight GERD symptoms and both the health of the stomach and the mouth seem to be linked to mental health.
Write it out
Finally, when in doubt, write it out. Writing down your stressful thoughts is a great way to express the thoughts instead of having them fester inside. Writing about stress helps focus and clarify exactly what's stressing you, acknowledging the stress for what it is and what it is doing. Furthermore, you can then take the practice a step further and write what you are grateful for too. This will help you remember the good things that are happening, practicing gratitude and transforming the negative emotions into more beneficial ones.
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