Whether it’s at work or home, we all get stressed out. Regular stress increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Extremely stressful events like going through a divorce or losing your job can cause problems in the brain regions tied to emotions and this sometimes leads to psychiatric problems in the future.
Stress also gets in the way of managing relationships and being productive. It affects how you think and behave. It may cause you to be irritable, short-tempered and even have low self esteem.
To deal with this, we sometimes resort to unhealthy habits like smoking, overeating and/or eating unhealthy foods, drinking, transferring aggression, and developing dependencies on drugs. While these habits are easy to maintain, in the long run they’ll be as bad for you as the stress you’re trying to cope with. You can have more control over stress than you think and dealing with in positive and healthy ways is very important.
Here are tips on how to deal with it healthily:
1. Have a support network: Having a good support network of friends, family and colleagues is crucial to easing your troubles. It’s great to have people who can get you to see things from different perspectives or just listen to you. Engaging in relaxing activities with your friends helps you de-stress and so does plain old having a good laugh with them. A practical way to implement this is setting up fun meet-ups with your friends weekly or bi-weekly. It could be watching football or going to the spa or even just brunch on Sundays.
If you don’t have any friends or family that’ll be available regularly, you can meet new people by signing up for classes or joining a club or gym.
2. Physical activity: Asides from the major benefit of making your body fit, exercise serves as an effective way to relieve stress. It helps to burn away feelings of anger, frustration or anxiety. Instead of focusing on negative stressful thoughts, make it a point to focus on the physical sensations you’re experiencing while you’re exercising. Walking, running, and cycling are good choices that you can incorporate into your daily life. Playing table tennis or ping pong with your kids is also a great way to relieve stress physically and spend quality time with your family.
3. Eating healthy: You might not have considered it, but unhealthy eating doesn’t just clog your arteries and thicken your waist line, it also makes you feel worse. Traditional “comfort” foods like pizza, ice-cream, cheese and many other high fat content foods actually make you feel lethargic and less able to deal with the stress.
Chronic stress weakens our bodies immune system and therefore it’s ability to fight diseases. Increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables (like carrots, oranges and other citrus fruits) that are rich in anti-oxidants will help boost your immune system.
Swap your coffee and caffeinated drinks with herbal teas like chamomile that are calming. And remember to always drink lots of water.
4. Relaxing: This cannot be over-emphasized. Sometimes all you need to do to feel loads better is to take a long warm soak in the bath or a walk in the park. Get out your favorite novel and read it again or watch your favorite comedy show nestled in your most comfortable couch.
Taking a vacation at least annually is one of the best ways to get rid of stress. By leaving the environment where your stressors are located, you feel relieved immediately. In order to avoid going form stress to more stress though, you have to make sure that your vacation is very well organized. Poorly planned vacations with transportation, accommodation or safety issues will just make matters worse and leave you feeling less happy.