Stress can be a normal part of life, and we all experience stressful situations now and then. However, chronic stress can be harmful to your physical, emotional, and mental well being, and it’s very important to learn how to manage it.
How to lower stress: 10 tips to ease your stress
- Exercise regularly
- Identify your triggers
- Set realistic goals
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Improve your sleep
- Avoid unhealthy habits
- Spend some time doing something you enjoy
- Learn stress management techniques
- Embrace your creative side
- Reach out to loved ones
Tip #1. Exercise regularly
According to Harvard University, aerobic exercise reduces the body’s levels of stress hormones, stimulates the production of endorphins, improves your self-image, and increases your energy. Great ways to exercise include:
Tip #2. Identify your triggers
Certain things are universally stressful: loud alarms, crying babies, and endless Zoom meetings. However, it’s also common for each of us to feel more stress about certain things when compared to others, and these triggers can vary from person to person and even throughout the course of our lives. Stress triggers can include many everyday situations, from traffic to a social media overload.
You may not be able to always avoid the triggers, but identifying them can also help you understand the reasons behind your stress and your feelings during specific moments. This way, you’ll know exactly when to step away from the triggers or engage in stress management strategies.
Tip #3. Set realistic goals
It can become very difficult to avoid stress if your schedule is always packed with activities and deadlines to keep up with. We all want to be efficient and use our time wisely, but a hectic calendar can also lead to burnout and chronic stress, which can actually be counterproductive and lead to apathy, fatigue, and even depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs of burnout can include:
- Becoming critical or cynical at work
- Having trouble with performing your daily routine
- Lacking the energy to be productive
- Feeling unsatisfied with your achievements
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to temporarily feel better
- Experiencing changes in your sleeping patterns
- Having headaches, bowel problems, or other unexplained physical symptoms
To avoid this, it’s important to set a realistic schedule that allows you to get enough rest and have some “me” time so you can be healthy, happy, and productive in the long term. And if you suspect that you have burnout or a mental health issue, consider seeking professional help.
Tip #4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
A balanced diet can help your body manage the effects of stress, while an unhealthy diet can exacerbate these effects. A healthy diet can also reduce inflammation and improve your energy levels, lifting your mood. Additionally, micronutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin E can also have a significant impact on your mood and stress levels. A healthy diet should include a good balance of:
- Whole grains
- Lean protein
- Healthy fats
Tip #5. Improve your sleep
Not getting enough sleep places more stress on your body and stimulates the release of different stress-related hormones. Poor sleep can also affect other hormonal levels, worsen your mood, and hinder your concentration. According to the Sleep Foundation, some ways to improve your sleep include:
- Follow a regular sleep and wake-up schedule
- Create a cool and dark environment for sleeping
- Craft your own pre-bedtime routine
- Choose a good mattress, bedding, and pillows
- Disconnect from devices at least 30 minutes before bed
Tip #6. Avoid unhealthy habits
It can be tempting to use habits like excessive alcohol consumption and smoking when you’re feeling stressed. But in reality, these unhealthy habits can make you feel even worse over time. According to the Cleveland Clinic, nicotine and alcohol place even more stress on the body because they affect blood flow, digestion, and breathing, among other processes.
Tip #7. Spend some time doing something you enjoy
Engaging in activities we enjoy can lift our mood, lessen our stress, and make it easier to handle everyday stress. It doesn’t matter what it is — reading, doing your nails, working out, dancing, playing video games, or baking a dessert. The important thing is to make sure you carve out some time for yourself and do things that you enjoy. Simply doing something you love can release hormones that help manage chronic pain and stress, lower your heart rate, and improve your quality of life.
Tip #8. Learn stress management techniques
We can’t always avoid stress, which is why learning stress management techniques is necessary throughout our lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, techniques like meditation, visualization, guided imagery, and deep breathing can be practiced anywhere and help you cope with stressful situations.
Tip #9. Embrace your creative side
It doesn’t matter if you’re not an expert — at the end of the day, most of us aren’t! Simply embracing your creativity and expressing your emotions can be a powerful way to release stress. Creative activities that can help relieve stress include:
- Writing a journal
- Playing an instrument
- Listening to music
Tip #10. Reach out to your loved ones
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember those who mean the most to us. Connecting with your loved ones and telling them what you’re going through can make you feel loved and supported, which has a positive impact on your stress levels. We all need to rely on others every now and then — human connection is one of the best ways to feel better when you’re stressed.