Stress has been in the media a lot lately, with more and more of us suffering its ill effects. With 40 percent of Americans saying their job is very stressful and 57 percent feeling stressed about the future of America, things seem to be getting worse. Stress can have a terrible impact on your health and relationships, causing both physical and mental symptoms. We all have moments of stress, but long-term sustained stress can cause all sorts of illnesses, from heart attack to depression and even premature aging. It can affect our work and our relationships in a negative way, and that can make us feel even more stressed.
There are almost as many causes of stress as there are people, but the main ones tend to be work, relationships and money worries. These days, a lot of people are also reporting that social media and “fear of missing out” are also causing them stress.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress is linked to the six biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, lung conditions, cirrhosis of the liver, accidents, and suicide. It’s important then that we all do what we can to lower our stress levels wherever possible.
Here are some ways to help you reduce your stress levels and improve your health in the process:
1. Practice mindfulness
Don’t be put off by the thought of long hours in the lotus position meditating. Mindfulness is all about finding ways to be completely present in the here and the now rather than thinking about what has happened in the past or might happen in the future.
2. Breathe deeply
When we’re stressed, one of the first symptoms is that our breathing becomes more shallow, which only adds to our stress levels. Take a moment to stand or sit quietly and take a few deep breaths, filling your lungs. You should feel your belly expand as you breathe in. Two or three breaths should help to calm you down.
Laughter is great for stress relief. Find a funny video on YouTube or talk to a funny coworker. Laughing releases endorphins which can counteract the effects of stress and leave you feeling much better.
4. Listen to music
Listening to music is a brilliant way to relieve stress. Make a playlist of your favorite songs (Spotify is great for this) and sing along to your heart’s content.
When you’re stressed, you might feel more like heading for a bar than the gym, but regular exercise helps us not only to relieve stress but also to be more resilient against it in the future. Choose a class you love and attend regularly for the best results.
6. Go for a walk
Going for a walk is a great way to lower your stress levels. Even just a few minutes walking through the city on your lunch break can work wonders, but what’s even better is to find some green space and get out into nature for a while.
7. Sleep better
Poor sleep increases our stress levels and just makes everything seem worse. Getting a good night’s sleep can help you to feel better, improve your health and to lower your stress levels. Switch the TV off and get an early night!
8. Take fish oil supplements
According to the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, Ohio State University College of Medicine, medical students taking omega-3 supplements reported a 20 percent reduction in symptoms of anxiety.
9. Lower your caffeine intake
Everyone likes a coffee, but increased caffeine intake can contribute to stress and anxiety. Skip your regular trips to the coffee house to improve your stress levels.
10. Burn a scented candle
Pick one with a calming scent such as lavender or rose, and keep the candle burning for an hour or so to feel the full benefit. Alternatively, elevate your mood and soothe your mind with the help of essential aromatherapy oils.
11. Keep a journal
Writing down your feelings can help you to make sense of them and feel more calm about what has been bothering you.
12. Write a gratitude list
Studies have shown that habitually keeping track of things you are grateful for can help to train your brain to always look on the bright side. Focusing on what’s positive in your life can help you to overcome stress.
13. Chew gum
A study at Cardiff University showed that people who chewed gum had lower stress levels and a better sense of wellbeing.
14. Spend time with loved ones
Time with friends and family can be a great way to take your mind off your worries. Those of us with fewer social connections are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
15. Say no!
Many of us feel stressed and overwhelmed because we’ve taken on too much. Practice saying no to the things that stress you out.
Stress is a massive problem these days and definitely something to be taken seriously. Try some of the above suggestions and see if they can improve your health and wellbeing.