What is now recognized as the #1 health threat in the United States? Stress. Studies show that 60% of Americans are moderately to highly-stressed. Chronic negative mind-body states have deleterious effects on our health and happiness levels. The salient question is: what do we do about it?
As coaches, speakers, and trainers, we encounter increasing numbers of private practice and corporate clients who face this dilemna. Many of the people we coach find themselves stuck in perpetual patterns of stress, unable to break free. Like so many people, they lean into common patterns of escape.
The American Psychological Association has extensively researched stress and has identified six (6) normal pitfalls in dealing with stress. These are the very strategies our overwhelmed clients practice compulsively, and these are the exact methods that don’t work. They include:
- Unhealthy Eating
- Excessive Alcohol Use
- Surfing the Web (including social media)
- Watching TV
- Playing Video Games
We indulge in these patterns because our brains want us to feel better. There is a promise of pleasure while engaging in these activities, and they do trigger a powerful chemical neurotransmitter: dopamine. Dopamine allows us to feel excited, even high and elated - and briefly satiated. Notice the word briefly. Once dopamine runs its short course, the promise of peace turns into a state of restlessness and dissatisfaction. And then the stress returns. And often guilt enters the picture. Next, we attempt to alleviate guilt by indulging in the same strategies that produced it in the first place! Without question, the above strategies are temporarily and initially effective in relieving stress. However, they result in a bounce-back effect that returns us to our baseline of stress, or worse.
So, let’s plunge headlong into effective stress-reduction strategies. The APA has found these nine (9) strategies to be quite effective in truly reducing your stress level:
1. Exercise and Playing Sports
Studies show that regular physical movement shifts your stress level. It also builds stress resilience. Find movement that you enjoy – you are much more likely to stick with it. We like to mix it up – spinning, hiking, jogging, dance, and kickboxing.
A little bit of yoga goes a long way! Neuroscience tells us that it creates an endorphin storm in the brain-body! Who doesn’t want to experience that? It’s exactly what we are needing when we are stressed.
3. Prayer and Religious Services
Prayer seems to provide substantial change in perceived stress levels. Being in community with an open-hearted focus is beneficial. Research in the field of positive psychology has shown that people who are satisfied with their spiritual life (whatever that looks like) are healthier and happier.
Research points to the lasting positive effects of a regular meditation practice. The neuroscience shows many benefits including improved immune system functioning, reduced inflammation, improved stress resilience, reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, and so much more. You can literally rewire your neuro-physiology with simple meditation sessions every morning. Download your free meditation here.
5. Listening To Music
Listening to tunes you enjoy can soothe and transform your stress level. Research has shown that listening to uplifting lyrics helps people feel more confident and productive throughout their day. Mindful consumption reminds us that the words we listen to have powerful effects on our consciousness, and thus how we feel and behave.
6. Spending Time with Supportive Family and Friends
Social connection plays a major role in our happiness quotient. Many of us live far away from our families and friends. We are never too old to make new friends. Surround yourself with positive, inspired, authentic people – we become like those with whom we associate, and attitudes and lifestyles are contagious!
7. Taking a Walk
Moving the body, particularly in nature, lifts our spirits in a satisfying way. It is our body’s natural rhythm to walk – it is in our DNA. It’s been a short time since we were fighting the saber toothed tiger and walking for daily chores. Our bodies have not caught up to the technology. Today, we spend more time “plugged in” and sitting all day. This stresses the mind-body.
Bodywork releases physical sludge and create deep relaxation. Research shows many benefits around receiving massage including better sleep and lowered blood pressure. It’s important to find the right professional. One size does not fit all.
9. Creating a Hobby
Investing in a creative hobby can be very gratifying and uplifting. Dr. Brene Brown tells us that “unexpressed creativity is not benign.” Hobbies are a way to express ourselves and to enjoy fulfillment. What is something you haven’t done in a while? Make time for play and joy!
Why are these 9 strategies deemed effective? In addition to dopamine, these approaches boost another substantial neurotransmitter: serotonin. Serotonin is what helps us to sleep, recharge, relax, and generally cope with everyday life. It is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter and provides us with a deep sense of well-being. You deserve to feel and be your best. Invest in yourself and your mind-body will thank you!
Invite us to bring Mind-Body Strategies and Satisfying Stress Management Practices and Principles into your workplace! We have many formats and approaches for every client – keynote speaking, workshops, programs, and individual and team mindfulness coaching. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an initial consultation. Learn about our full range of services. Listen to us being interviewed on Newstalk 1160 AM Radio here on “Mindfulness in the Workplace”. Enjoy our CNN interview on Mind-Body Interventions for Stress.