Stressed out after a long day at work? You're not alone. More than 8 in 10 employed Americans are stressed out about their jobs, according to a 2013 survey. If you think stress is just a new societal norm, think again: Excessive stress can seriously derail your health. In fact, people who reported being upset by and dwelling on daily stresses were also more likely to face chronic health problems 10 years down the road, according to a 2012 study. Some scary symptoms of stress include lowered libido, reduced immunity and increased hair loss.
While there are definite health benefits to managing stress including reduced pain and improved heart health, be sure to nix your stress appropriately. Watching your favorite TV show or playing the latest video game to relieve after-work stress actually produces more feelings of guilt and shame, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Communication.
So tune out the TV and instead try these four ways to relieve stress.
1. Unplug, shut down and log off.
By 2015, scientists predict the average person will spend about 16 hours a day consuming media -- including TV, social media and phone time. Still, researchers have found that smartphones actually increase stress. And another report showed that the more people used Facebook, the more their happiness declined.
Lowering stress can be as easy as clicking a button -- or rather, turning off your digital devices. Make your media time as well-balanced as your diet with these tips:
- Track your media time. Keeping a media diary can help you realize how often you’re plugged in. Simply write down the type of media you're using (e.g., Internet, TV time, text messaging), how often your use it, and for how long. Like writing down what you eat, writing down how often you’re plugged in can help you curtail your habits.
- Try a media detox. If the thought of ditching your cell phone makes you break into a cold sweat, it might be time for a mini-media detox. You don’t have to give up your cell phone, TV time or Instagram habit forever either. Instead, start small with a cell phone-free weekend, skip social media for a day or ditch the TV for an evening.
2. Eat these foods.
Your food choices can help you healthily manage your stress levels. Here are some foods to try next time you’re feeling especially stressed.
- Dark chocolate. The antioxidant-rich indulgence not only reduces stress by lowering levels of stress hormones in your body, dark chocolate also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and helps boost your mood. Aim to eat chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cacao, and consume a max of 1 to 2 ounces daily.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Foods that are rich in omega-3s -- avocados and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines -- help lower stress, anxiety and depression. Try to eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week (each serving should be about 3.5 ounces cooked). Want to get your omega-3s but not a fan of fish? Opt for flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts instead.
- Citrus fruits. Vitamin C found in citrus fruits like oranges, strawberries and grapefruit can also help relieve stress. Adult men should try to get about 90 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C daily, while adult women need only about 75 mg daily. You can meet your daily vitamin C requirement by eating one cup of oranges, which contains about 95 mg of vitamin C. Other great sources of vitamin C include red and green peppers, kiwifruit, baked potatoes, tomatoes and broccoli.
3. Get moving.
Exercise is another healthy way to prevent stress, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. The study found that moderate physical activity helped people manage stress and anxiety -- and the health benefits lasted even after the workout ended. Try these workouts for stress relief:
- High-energy activities like running, dancing and spinning
- Tai chi
4. Aim for more -- and more restful -- sleep.
A recent poll found that an estimated 70 percent of people who reported feeling stressed in the last month also experienced trouble sleeping. Poor sleep has been linked to lowered immunity, heart problems and feelings of anxiety and depression. Stop stress in its tracks by practicing these better sleep tips:
- Skip the afternoon coffee. Caffeine stays in your system for at least six hours, so skip your afternoon cup o’ joe if you want to sleep more soundly.
- Power down. Watching TV or checking your Facebook feed before bed can keep you awake, so turn off the technology when you get in the bedroom. For a restful sleep, media mogul Arianna Huffington told Everyday Health she banishes all LCD screens, including computers, smartphones and TV, from her bedtime routine.
- Ready your room. Aim to make your room dark, cool and quiet. This will help lull you into a more restful sleep.
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4 Easy, Proven Ways To Relieve Stress originally appeared on Everyday Health.