Your body is hard-wired to respond to stress. Its “fight-or-flight” response system is designed to kick in when you’re faced with a threat. However, modern humans encounter a constant barrage of stressors that your body can misinterpret as threatening. That can keep you on edge. Over time, stress can negatively impact your mental and physical health.
Follow these 10 tips to help you soothe your nerves and put your mind and body at ease.
The hard reality is that stress will always exist. Pinpointing your triggers, or sources of stress, can help you manage it.
Look at the different areas of your life: work, finances, personal relationships, and so on. Can you take steps to reduce the stress you face in any of those areas? Are there stressful activities, people, or places that you can avoid? Work, family, and finances will continue to play integral roles in your life, but you can change the ways you cope with each of them.
SWEAT IT OUT
If you need more reasons to schedule exercise into your calendar, know that physical activity can help relieve stress. Regular exercise can boost your mood, promote weight loss, and help you get a good night’s sleep.
For adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. It also encourages adults to do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. If that sounds like a lot, break your exercise into 30-minute workout sessions.
Some studies suggest that a good cry may help you feel better. Research published in Motivation and Emotion found that people who cried while watching a movie felt worse immediately afterward. But within 90 minutes, they reported feeling better than they did before watching the film.
Releasing pent-up stress in a flood of tears is like washing your emotional palette clean. Crying may even stimulate your body’s production of endorphins, feel-good hormones that help improve your mood. So, go on — let it all out.
LEARN TO BE IMPERFECT
It’s healthy to have goals, but putting too much pressure on yourself can negatively affect your health. Holding yourself to unrealistic expectations is the perfect recipe for failure and stress.
Try to accept that there’s no such thing as perfection. Then, let go of your need to achieve it. Commit to setting realistic expectations, accepting your flaws, and learning from your mistakes. Your mind and body will thank you.
SCHEDULE "ME TIME"
Do you have a towering stack of bills to pay, laundry to fold, or dishes to clean? Sure, those things need to get done. But you might not have the energy or enthusiasm to check anything off your to-do list if you don’t pencil in some restorative private time, too.
Whether it’s five minutes of meditation to start your day, a soothing bath, or a 30-minute walk, it’s important to make time for yourself. Schedule it in your calendar to make it a priority.
DO ONE HEALTHY THING EVERY DAY
Take the stairs at the train station. Swap your next candy bar for a piece of fruit. Trade in your morning cup of highly caffeinated coffee for a mug of antioxidant-rich green tea. Drive in the slow lane on your commute home from work.
Even when your calendar gets cluttered, find time to make your health a priority. You might discover that every healthy choice you make motivates you to make more. The physical and mental benefits of taking care of yourself can make a big difference in your life.
Mistakes, accidents, and even tragedies happen sometimes. You can help lower the stress they cause by preparing for inevitable or unpleasant events.
For example, make copies of your house, apartment, or car keys to give to a family member or close friend. Keeping an easily accessible spare will leave you less stressed if you happen to lose a set. For times when unforeseen mishaps strikes, count to 10 before speaking, take three deep breaths, or go for a walk to clear your mind. If you can, wait until you feel calm and collected to address the problem.
WRITE IT DOWN
A growing body of evidence suggests that journaling can help you sort through a gamut of emotions, such as anger, sadness, and loss. Writing about your emotions may even help you heal from stress and trauma, suggests research reported in Monitor on Psychology.
Rather than simply venting about your feelings in your journal, it’s important to look for meaning in your experiences. For example, ask yourself what you’ve learned or how you’ve changed following a difficult situation.
Stress management relies, in part, on staying hydrated. Hydration is important for keeping you healthy and combating fatigue. If you’re feeling lethargic and cranky, you may be less productive and more stressed about your day.
To keep your body healthy, your mind sharp, and stress at bay, don’t wait until your mouth is parched before you reach for a beverage. Drink water throughout the day and with your meals. The Mayo Clinic recommends aiming for about 13 cups of fluids a day if you’re a man and 9 cups if you’re a woman. That’s equal to about 3 liters for men and 2.2 liters for women.
It might feel natural and downright nice to say “yes” to every project, proposal, and request that comes your way. But piling too much on your plate can lead to a major meltdown. Recognizing and respecting your limits is essential to maintaining control of your time and health.
Consider each request and opportunity carefully before accepting it. Only say yes to as many things as you’re able and willing to handle without putting your mental and physical health at risk. Then politely say “no” to the rest.
To cope with stress, it may also help to:
laugh a little every day.
cut down on stimulants, such as caffeine and sugar
practice relaxation techniques, such as rhythmic breathing and meditation
talk to a friend or family member
If stress is interfering with your ability to cope with daily life, talk to your doctor or therapist. They may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, counseling, or other strategies to help you gain a sense of relaxation and control.