Stress is something we all have in common. Unfortunately, dear reader, knowing how best to manage stress is less common. There are variables that come into play. Different stressors, for example, might mean different ways to deal with stress. You might not always turn to a healthy way to deal with stress. Junk food, alcohol, or compulsive behaviors, for example, should not be the norm.
Luckily, there are many healthy ways to deal with stress and they will add to your happiness. They might even add some years to your life.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the body’s way of telling us we’re in a harmful situation. That in itself is a good thing. We need a warning system or we wouldn’t know when to pull back or stop harmful behaviors.
A little stress is not harmful. You might be pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Your body’s natural response is to want us to stay warm and cozy in the path of least resistance.
If you are trying something new, your body might take a while to get on board. Until your mind and body believe that what you are doing will benefit you, these stress reactions warn you away. You may have heard of imposter syndrome, this reaction is what creates it.
Why It’s Important to Manage Stress
To be frank, being under heavy stress can shorten your life. Some studies have shown your lifespan can shorten by 2.8 years due to stress! Stress can have real, physical effects on our bodies. It can cause chest pain, insomnia, a lowering of the immune system, and low energy to name a few.
You must first be aware of the amount of strain that we are experiencing. Then find a healthy way to deal with stress. If not, the results are detrimental. But stress not. Once you cue into your body’s warning signs, you can make a point to deal with stress in a healthy and manageable way.
5 Ways to Deal with Stress
#1 Get Outside
Getting outside is the easiest thing you can do to manage your stress. The effects are instantaneous. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, put on some comfy, weather-appropriate shoes. Then leash up your pooch, if you have one, (America is my favorite walking buddy), and get outside.
I assure you, the minute you step into the great outdoors, you will breathe easier. This goes for everyone, even if you live in the big city as I do.
Perhaps you’re at work, you may find it hard to get outside. But could you walk to get your lunch? Or even leave your breaktime snack in your car so you have an excuse to go out and get it. Try to find a way and your body will thank you.
Walking is not the only way to get the benefits of the outdoors. You can eat your lunch outside, if weather permits. Take your favorite book or Kindle outside and read under a tree or on the beach. Ah. I’m less stressed just thinking about it.
#2 Get In Some Exercise
There is a well-known connection between physical health and emotional well-being. The ultimate way to deal with stress. Exercise reduces the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Not to mention the fact that it releases endorphins, which elevates your mood.
Surprisingly, you don’t need to commit to hours of high-intensity exercise to help manage stress. You don’t even need access to a gym. A leisurely 20-minute stroll (a one-two punch of getting outside and exercising) will do the trick.
Stuck inside? Try a workout video. There are a ton of videos on YouTube for all ages and fitness levels. I found this video wonderful.
If even that seems overwhelming, try to find ways throughout your day to move your body. Talk about a healthy way to deal with stress!
#3 Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is simply being aware of yourself, your thoughts, and your surroundings. Often when stressed, you are thinking about the past or the future. When thinking about the future you might be stressing about something you’ve done. Maybe a careless word you wish you could take back. If you are stressing about the future, you are likely thinking about things that are on your plate.
When you practice mindfulness, you focus on the now.
During your practice, you may notice your mind wandering. That is expected, dear reader, and it is fine. You will gently focus your attention back to the present moment and to your breathing. There are even apps that help with this. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to deal with stress.
#4 Break Down Goals
You have a lot on your plate. We all do. It could be the day-to-day tasks piling up. Or you have something new and exciting in your life and it’s causing you to be anxious. Maybe a dream you’ve always had is, at last, coming to pass. You would be surprised how much something that we have long wished for can bring us stress.
If you have something big (or small) on the horizon that is causing you stress, break it down. Smaller goals build to the larger goal.
Say you’re looking to sell your family home and move to a cottage on the beach. Exciting! But it can also be stressful, as there is so much to do.
Your plan of attack could start with small steps like:
- Spend 5 minutes researching agents
- Call 1 agent and set up an appointment
- Call 2nd agent to set up an appointment
Complete these very small steps at a comfortable rate, even only one step a day. You will find that prioritizing and breaking down your goals makes them manageable. And if you find that a step still feels too big, break it down further. As you check items off of your list, you will feel the stress over the larger goal lifting.
#5 Practice Gratitude
If there is one thing you take away from this list on how to manage your stress, I would start with gratitude. When you take the time to focus on what is already good in your life, focus on it with gratitude, you will feel lighter.
Gratitude has amazing power.
One study showed that writing down three things that you are grateful for 21 consecutive days, improved levels of optimism. Significantly. This extended for six months afterward.
Other studies have shown that gratitude can have “profound’ and ‘long-lasting’ neural effects” that researchers described as “particularly noteworthy.” Basically, gratitude is good for your brain.
How can you practice gratitude? You can create mantras specific to your life and situation, or more general. For example, “I am so grateful for this beautiful day.” Whatever feels most genuine to you.
Another way to practice gratitude is to keep a journal. Each day you can write down what you are grateful for.
I hope these five ways to manage stress resonate with you, dear reader. I invite you to try at least one today.
What’s your go-to way to manage stress?
Do tell! Share your comments below!
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