If you're on a hike and a bear comes crashing out of the bushes you better believe that stress is the perfect response. If though, on an on-going basis, you're dealing with a miserable situation like an unhappy relationship, money worries or a crazy, unpredictable boss, you're depleting your mental and physical health bit by bit. The stress of unrelenting demands and pressure can cause a whole lot of problems. Numerous studies have shown that this type of long-term stress takes a toll on your immune system and can lead to high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, heart disease and even weight gain.
The worst part is that we sometimes get so used to this chronic stress that it actually becomes normal and almost comfortable. Here are just some of the symptoms of chronic stress (in case you were wondering):
- Dizziness or a general feeling of "being out of it"
- Grinding your teeth, a clenched jaw
- Indigestion or acid reflux
- Muscle tension in your neck, face, or shoulders
- Problems sleeping
- Upset stomach, diarrhea
Don't invite chronic stress to take up residence in your world because life is too short and you deserve better. Get a handle on the stress in your life and show yourself some love with these five lifestyle strategies.
1. Make saying no your new mantra.
While Shonda Rhimes may be having a year of saying yes, most of us need to use the word no more when it comes to being over-scheduled or taking on more responsibilities. Take a step back and make some difficult decisions about what you can let go of doing. It can be hard to do but in the long-run it's easier than feeling overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions. Open up some space in your life, you can always fill it back up.
2. Sleep, sleep, sleep!
Lack of sleep causes a whole host of crazy problems-who knew? According to WebMD not getting enough sleep can dampen your sex drive, make your skin look older, contribute to depression/stress, make you less productive and raise your blood pressure. So, if getting enough Zzzz's hasn't been a priority make it one now. Start to wind down a little earlier, step away from your phone, and put that tablet down. You can find some great strategies for getting better sleep from Arianna Huffington's book The Sleep Revolution.
3. Use a different instafilter and reframe that picture.
Our minds and thoughts can really stress us out. Sometimes we need to take notice of our thoughts, watch how they affect us, and consciously decide to take a different path. The situation in front of you may be challenging but stressing out or beating yourself up won't help to resolve it. It also creates wear and tear on your spirit. Are the things you're telling yourself even true or did you immediately go to the worst case scenario? Take a moment and reframe your approach to one that serves you in a more productive and positive way.
4. Just breathe.
You've probably been hearing a lot about the many benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Don't let the hype put you off. There's a reason that people turn to breathing exercises and meditation to help reduce stress-it really works! There are a bunch of great apps out there like Buddhify and HeadSpace that guide you through breathing exercises and meditation. What's really cool is that they cater to busy people so if you only have 5 or 10 minutes they have a meditation for you. Make the time to breathe in some good vibes and relaxation.
5. Get social.
This is one of those times when it's a good idea to stop texting and meet up with your crew. When you're stressed getting together with people who care about you, and can offer support, advice and hopefully a few laughs, is really important.
Don't let stress manage you and your life. Turn the tables on stress--be proactive and create a healthier, more relaxed you.