9 Healthy Ways to Reduce Stress
Stress is a common nuisance that we experience all too often. It’s our body’s response to changes, challenges, and demands that cause emotional, psychological, or even physical strain. We can become stressed by small things like traffic jams, more significant things like losing a job, or even happy events such as getting married.
No matter the cause, stress has a negative impact on our mental and physical health. But there are several ways to help reduce stress both in the short- and long term.
Getting active is a great stress reducer. As you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which help lift your mood. It also reduces cortisol, one of your body’s stress hormones. Exercising regularly can help improve your sleep and physical wellness and boost your confidence and take your mind off the day’s events. And you don’t have to get on a treadmill—try anything that gets you moving, such as gardening, walking, biking, swimming, or dancing.
2. Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is critically important to your health. It’s the time when your body and brain recharge, helping you to feel alert, function properly, and think clearly. Quality sleep also regulates your mood, which plays a huge part in how you react to stress. Of course, stress can often keep you from falling asleep or getting a good night’s sleep. Make sure to make sleep a priority—giving yourself enough time to get around 8 hours of sleep. You can also help your sleep along by having a relaxing bedtime routine, putting away electronics, and sticking to a schedule.
3. Eat a Balanced Diet
This might be the last thing you want to hear. It’s much more satisfying to reach for another slice of pizza when stressed than to make a salad. But an unhealthy diet can make you react more negatively to stress. Emotional eating, while relieving in the present, may add to your stress in the long term. Refined carbs such as chips and cookies can cause our blood sugar to spike and then crash, leading to more anxiety and stress. Try to eat a balanced diet and incorporate healthy foods that help with mood regulation and energy.
4. Stop Unhealthy Habits
Like comfort food, we may turn to things like caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs to cope with stress. But these substances can harm your body and even put more stress on it. Nicotine, for example, reduces blood flow and breathing, which will only hinder stress relief. While you may not want to cut out coffee and wine, reducing the amount you ingest can help you on your way to reducing stress.
5. Connect with Friends and Family
Having a strong support system is highly beneficial to your well-being. Connecting with your loved ones can help reduce stress by creating a distraction and giving you a space to talk about your stressors. Spending time with friends can also help release oxytocin, a hormone that serves as a natural stress reliever. And if you laugh with them, even better—laughter truly is the best medicine because it can help improve your mood, reduce stress, and even boost your immune system.
6. Dive into Hobbies
When you’re stressed and busy, it’s often difficult to make time for yourself. But carving out time to do things you enjoy can serve as an incredible stress reliever. Whether it’s cooking, volunteering, playing tennis, listening to music, or playing with your dog, as long as it’s something that brings you joy, it will help.
7. Learn to Say No
Sometimes we get stressed when there’s too much on our plate. But even if being overloaded isn’t the direct cause of stress, adding more responsibilities and engagements can only add to our anxiety. Though it can be difficult, saying no is an important skill that can help reduce stress and allow time for focusing on ourselves.
8. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Being present and practicing mindfulness can help you detach and recover from stress. There are a number of techniques you can try, including meditation, deep breathing, and guided imagery, just to name a few. You’ll find plenty of apps to guide you through these efforts if you’re just starting out.
9. Try Recovery Therapies
There are a variety of tools and therapies typically used by athletes that are coming into the mainstream and can help reduce stress. You might try a float tank if you want to completely disconnect from the world for a while. You could also consider hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which helps you feel a sense of relaxation, well-being, and balance. Or, you can step into the cold with cryotherapy and emerge feeling rested and even euphoric.
While these approaches to reduce stress are helpful, you shouldn’t hesitate to connect with a mental health professional when stress becomes too much to manage. Therapy may be a good idea if you worry excessively, have trouble with managing responsibilities, or feel trapped. A professional counselor can give you tools and resources to better cope with and reduce stressors in your life.
Get in touch with our Optimim Human team, for a customized plan for you.