Stress is a part and parcel of modern lifestyle which is burdened with frustrations, expectations and demands. From children to adults, everyone faces some degree of stress in their life. In fact, for some people it has become a way of life. Stress is not always harmful. Some amount of stress helps you perform under pressure and provides you the needed motivation to give your best. However, when stress goes out of control, it adversely affects your physical and mental health. Excessive stress can damage your mood, health, relationships and quality of life. There is a need to know the signs and symptoms of stress to take the necessary steps to overcome it and minimize its harmful effects.
Our nervous system responds to stress by releasing a flood of stress hormones known as adrenaline and cortisol which rouse the body for immediate action. Stress makes your heart beat faster and your muscles tighten. It also raises your blood pressure, quickens your breath, and sharpens your senses. All these physical changes boost your strength and stamina, increasing your reaction time and enhancing your focus. This reaction, known as stress response, enables you to stay energetic, alert, and focused. However, when stress goes out of control, it can get the better of you.
How to Overcome Stress? Determine the Best Way to Reduce Stress
Stress reduction requires a great deal of effort and action but it will definitely make you happier by improving the quality of your life. When you are less stressed, you are able to sleep better, enjoy small things in life and adopt a positive attitude. Though stress cannot and should not be eliminated completely, it can definitely be minimised by following a few steps. You can start by minimizing the stressful situations in your life so that you feel relaxed. Given below are a few steps by which stress can be controlled to a great extent.
1. Identify and Analyse the Causes of Your Stress:
Before proceeding to minimize your stress, it is important to identify the reasons for the rise in your stress levels. All you need to do is take a notepad and make a list of things that make your feel stressed out. You can start by identifying the root causes of your stress. The causes of your stress can be varied. It can be related to your work such as low salary or lack of satisfaction. Stress can also be related to your personal life such as the way your relationships are going and the challenges that you face in maintaining them. Besides, it is also important to find out the nature of your stress i.e. whether you are in a permanent state of stress or you are stressed out due to a particular situation in your life. You can write your thoughts to identify the real causes of your stress. This will enable you to have a better idea of what is causing you anxiety, enabling you to make the necessary changes to improve your life.
2. Have a Healthy Diet:
Diet plays an important role in stress management too. It has been proven that junk food can make you feel depressed and stressed out. So replace junk food with healthy foods like whole grains and proteins. These will not only improve your mood but also provide you enough energy to handle the stressful situations. Well nourished bodies can easily cope with stress. So always keep an eye on what you are eating. Restrict your intake of caffeine and sugar as these often lead to a crash in mood and energy. Having lesser amount of coffee, chocolate, sugar, soft drinks and sugar snacks can actually make you feel more relaxed and improve your sleep. You can incorporate stress busting foods like salmon, almonds and blueberries in your diet. Having balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day can help you deal with stress in a better way.
3. Increase your Intake of B-Vitamins:
B-vitamins are particularly beneficial for the brain and nervous system. Consumption of foods rich in B-vitamins can help induce relaxation and fight fatigue. In fact, deficiency of vitamin B can trigger irritability, apathy and stress. In order to prevent these symptoms, it is advisable to incorporate foods rich in B vitamins such as beans, peas, cereal grains, nuts, liver, eggs and dairy products in your diet.
4. Avoid Drugs, Cigarettes and Alcohol:
People often resort to drugs, cigarette and alcohol to escape their stress and depression. But the relief is only temporary and these can worsen the situation in the long run. So don’t escape the situation by using nicotine or alcohol, instead learn to deal with your stress in a clear cut manner.
5. Have Proper Sleep:
Lack of sleep is often the cause of a disturbed mind. When you feel tired, your stress levels increase causing you to think irrationally. Adequate sleep fuels your mind and body, which goes a long way in reducing stress. This is another best way to relieve stress. So ensure to get at least 7 to 9 hours of healthy night’s sleep. However, too much of sleep can also make you feel groggy and lethargic. Always ensure to have the same amount of sleep every night. To regularize your routine, go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. You can spend an hour decompressing in bed before actually sleeping. Avoid watching TV or indulging in intense conversation as it will be difficult to relax your mind when the time comes.
6. Exercise Regularly:
Exercise is a great way to improve both physical and mental health. The best way to reduce stress levels too. Exercise does not necessarily mean indulging in intense work outs in a gym. You can try having a short walk or do a few stretching exercises to keep yourself relaxed in a stressful situation. Exercise keeps your blood moving, resulting in the release of endorphins which can greatly improve your mood. So always devote 30 to 45 minutes a day to get your body moving. This will make you feel energized, powerful and of course, less stressed. Given below are a few simple ways of exercising your body.
- Swimming is a great exercise. The splashing waters not only refreshes you, but also wash away your stressful thoughts. So why not join a pool and swim a mile everyday!
- Running is another exercise that makes your muscles strong and you feel more capable of tackling challenges. Try running a few miles for a boost in energy and mood.
- Yoga is a great way to control your mind and breathing as well as improve your health physically.
- Indulge in sports activities like football, volleyball, bowling or rugby. Besides being enjoyable, these sports provide your body a great workout, boosting your mood and energy.
- If you are a nature lover you can consider hiking to keep stress at bay.
7. Practice Deep Breathing:
Practicing deep breathing regularly in a quiet place can greatly relax your mind by warding off stressful thoughts. All you need to do is loosen your clothes and remove your shoes and jacket to make yourself comfortable. You can sit on a comfortable chair or lie down with your arms flat on the floor or bed. While in this position, stretch your legs keeping them hip width apart. Do not cross your legs while sitting on a chair. Relaxation involves focusing on your breathing such as breathing in and out slowly in regular rhythm to calm you down.
- While breathing, fill your lungs with air as if you are filling up a bottle from bottom to top.
- Try to inhale with your nose and exhale with your mouth.
- Counting from one to five, continue to breathe slowly and regularly.
- Breathing continuously without pausing will make you feel calm.
- In case of high levels of stress, this relaxed breathing should be practiced for 3 to 5 minutes at least twice or thrice a day.
8. Go for Massage:
We all love to have a massage. And indeed, it is a great way to ease your body pain as well as relax your mind. You can try massaging your neck, palms and forearms or have it done by someone else. If price is not a concern, you can go to a professional masseuse. Massage has been a great stress reliever for centuries. The Chinese often used this technique to open blocked energy channels while Hippocrates, ‘the father of western medicine’, used it for physical healing treatments. It will help to relax tense muscles, reduce pain and increase circulation which in turn benefits your mind.
9. Muscle Relaxation Technique:
This is another natural way to relieve stress that involves stretching different muscles in turn to relax them and release tension from the body. You just need to devote 20 minutes a day for this. Find a warm quite place with no distractions. Focus on your breathing while practicing the following stretching exercises. Ensure to hold each stretch for a few seconds.
- Face: Pushing your eyebrows together inhale and then release as though frowning.
- Arms: While inhaling stretch your arms from the body and then relax.
- Hands and Wrists: Pulling your hands upwards, stretch your wrist and stretch out your fingers and thumbs.
- Neck: Keeping your head tilted forward, push your chin down towards chest and then slowly lift again.
- Legs: Push your toes away from the body and then relax and pull them towards the body.
- Shoulders: Pull your shoulders towards the ears and then relax them down towards the feet.
- Chest: Use whole of pour lungs to breath slowly and deeply into the diaphragm. Then exhale slowly to allow your belly to deflate when all the air is exhaled.
10. Listen to Music:
A stressful situation can be avoided by taking a break and listening to some soothing music. Another best way to relieve stress! It has a relaxing effect on your brain and body, which can lower your blood pressure and reduce cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. You can choose any music like classical, ocean or nature sounds that make you feel better.
11. Make your Environment Stress Free:
Stress can be controlled to a great extent by warding off the stress causing factors from the environment around you. If you feel anxious and disheartened by listening to evening news, then avoid it. If traffic is the cause of your stress, take a longer and less congested route. Similarly, if you get upset with particular topics of religion and politics, avoid making them a part of your conversations. This will definitely help to make your environment stress free.
12. Avoid People Who Stress You Out:
If you are stressed out because of a particular person, try to limit the amount of time that you spend with that person if it is not possible to avoid him entirely.
13. Keep your Space Clean and Organized:
Organizing and de-cluttering your space does require effort but it will definitely make you feel more relaxed. You can start off by getting rid of all the garbage, loose papers and expired food in your refrigerator. Then you can move on to organizing your desk, arranging your books on the shelf and cleaning your closet. Keeping your room clean is equally important so that you can do some dusting and wiping. The basic idea is to get rid of all the redundant and useless items from your space. Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes in throwing out the things that you do not need and cleaning and tidying your room. Once your home is organized and clean, your mind will also be clear of all stressful thoughts.
14. Slow Down:
In the modern fast paced life, everyone is rushing in their urge to get ahead of others. However, at times, slowing down can greatly help in lowering your stress levels. Learn to enjoy nature, food and people around you. This will relieve your stress to a great extent.
15. Express Your Feelings:
Often we feel stressed because we are unable to express our feelings. Suppressing your feelings contributes to resentment which further adds to the stress. If you are bothered about some situation or person, try to talk about it with a trustworthy person. This will definitely reduce the burden on your mind and the concerned persons will feel flattered that you confide in them. If you are far away from your near and dear ones, you can have an appointment with a therapist or counselor. Always remember that voicing your feelings is not a sign of weakness but a way of strengthening your bond and unburdening yourself.
16. Practice Time Management:
Lack of time management is one of the major factors contributing to stress. It is difficult to stay calm and focused when we are running out of time. Often we feel stressed at the thought of being late for work or not being able to complete the assignments in time. The best way to avoid this situation is to inculcate the habit of getting up early and set a particular time for each activity. This will make life less stressful as you do not have to rush for everything.
17. Learn to Compromise:
We often expect people to change their behavior according to our convenience when we ourselves are unwilling to do the same. This adds to the stress levels. So there is no harm in compromising a little if it can keep you happy and make others happy.
18. Limit the Use of Internet and Cell Phones:
Internet and cell phones have become a vital part of our lives. While both are considered great pastimes, they are also often responsible for raising our stress levels. If such is your case, you should find some time to relax by switching off your cell phone and staying away from the Internet for a while. This will help to block some of the channels through which stress can reach you if not combat stress entirely.
19. Laugh More Often:
Laughter is undoubtedly the best medicine to reduce stress. It not only strengthens your positive thinking but also enables you to take pleasure in your day to day interactions. You should also develop the ability to laugh at yourself. Laughter helps your body fight stress in various ways. You can spend time with people who have a good sense of humor or watch a stand-up comedy show. Giggling with friends is equally useful in warding off stress.
20. Have a Positive Attitude:
A positive attitude towards life can definitely make things better. This is possible by reflecting on all the good things in life and being grateful for them. At the end of the day, try writing out three things for which you are grateful. This will definitely shift your perspective from pessimistic to optimistic. As it is said, you can either look at the glass as half filled or half empty. Eliminate negative thinking and be grateful for what you have and for the people in your life. A positive outlook of life will lower your stress levels and increase your happiness.
No one can be happy all the time. It is just not how life works. But we can learn how to deal with the unpleasant while enjoying the good life has to offer. Remember these wonderful lines next time you feel depressed “…grant me the serenity to accept things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference..”
Hope you found this article helpful. Do share your views with us in the comments section below!