Stress has become accepted as a normal part of modern life. Whether you are overworked and unhappy at your job, worrying about money or trying to keep your strained personal relationships together, it is somewhat the norm to have these major stresses in life every now and then. But your body and health pays the price over time. Daily stress may be minor in comparison – like being stuck in traffic, petty conflicts with people and dealing with noisy kids – but it can still have a cumulative effect on the body.
Stress Affects Your Health
It is now well known that stress can be detrimental to you health and affect your body in ways that can even lead to fatal conditions. Stress is not entirely avoidable. But the degree of stress has to be controlled and the way you cope with it has to ensure that it has a minimal effect. Our body’s respond to modern life stresses as a fight or flight response. Here stress hormones are released that should enable us to flee from or overcome the cause of the stress.
But modern life does not work that way. Stress for many of us is not limited to a short period of minutes or hours. Instead it is ongoing for weeks, months and years. The prolonged secretion of the stress hormones can damage many organs and compromise your health in a number of ways. Your heart rate increase, blood pressure rises, immunity dips, metabolism alters and your ability to function in life is severely compromised. Collectively you are at risk of disease, disability and death.
Many people do not even realize that recognize the signs that they are stressed. These signs are a result of stress taking a toll on your physical and mental health. Remember the professional help by a medical doctor or therapist is important in overcoming stress. The following measures to help you reduce your stress levels does not negate the need for professional medical assistance.
Take Time To Relax
It may sound rather simplistic but most of us do not take time to relax. This does not just means the hours we sleep. Relaxation time should be a daily commitment in much the same way as bathing and eating. Try to create a daily time slot for relaxation usually in the afternoon or evening when there are less distractions. Switch off your phone, dim the lights and read a book or even just sit on the porch. Engage in something that will not put you to sleep. Remember that sleep time is a separate commitment. You can try relaxation techniques like yoga, tai chi or meditation as well if you feel that you are unable to switch off without focusing on some activity.
Deep Breathing Exercises
How you handle stress determines the extent of its effect on your body and health. Not all of us have good coping skills or can remain disconnected from a situation. Stress therefore affects some people more than others. Sometimes it is best to deal with the stress at the time that it is occurring and trying to cope with it during the course of the day rather than waiting till the end of the day to destress. Breathing exercises may be helpful in this regard. Short episodes of deep slow breathing can lower your blood pressure, slow down your heart rate and help you composed yourself. It can be done just about anywhere which makes it a good tool for dealing with stress on the go.
Start A Social Sport
Many of us swear to exercise more often as part of our new year’s resolution but it is unlikely to be a lasting commitment if you are not accustomed to an active lifestyle. Exercise has a host of benefits – not only physical but also for your mental and emotional wellbeing. It is a great stress reducer as well. Sport will ensure that you get the exercise you need and still have fun rather than a monotonous gym workout. Try to get into a sport where you will need a partner or several participants. Your sports buddies will motivate you to keep at it and apart from the sporting activity itself, the social interaction can also offer stress relief.
More Laughing, Less Sulking
It is now known that laughing more can have a host of health benefits. Laughter therapy is now becoming a popular complementary health practice. But you do not have to start up laughter therapy classes to gain the benefits. Partake in activities that you enjoy and which keeps you smiling and laughing. Even opt to watch a funny movie at home or spend time with friends whose company you enjoy and where you often end up laughing. Make laughter time part of your weekly schedule – if not daily then at least once or twice a week. Feeling depressed or getting upset can have the opposite effect on your body.
Try To Spend Time With Your Pet
One would think that pets only benefit from petting and cuddling. But it is just as beneficial for humans. Studies have shown that taking just a few minutes to pet your dog or cat causes changes in your hormone levels and blood pressure. Firstly the feel-good brain hormones are released within minutes of petting an animal. Your stress hormone levels decrease and even your blood pressure lowers. Owning a pet may not be for everybody but if it is an option for you, there is now an added benefit than just having Fido for companionship and protection.
Find A Hobby You Enjoy
Most of us do not know how to switch off from daily life stresses and shift our mind to something that we find relaxing. Sitting still and looking out the window may not be an option for every person. Keeping yourself busy with a hobby could do the trick. A hobby is something you have a special interest in and should be enjoyable. Most of us had hobbies as children but with the commitments of adult life, we gradually lost touch with these past times. Go back to a hobby that you found interesting earlier in life or look at something new that you now find enjoyable and easily accessible in adulthood.
Keep Vacations Simple
You would think that a vacation is the ideal way to destress but not necessarily so. Vacations may distract you from everyday life but can sometimes be more stressful than just staying at home for the holidays. Being in a different place, rushing around for flights, sleeping in a hotel room that may not be up to your standards and having to deal with locals who are not accommodating can stress you out even more. Plus there are the bills that adds to your financial worries for months thereafter. If you find foreign vacations or holidays far away from home even in your own country to be a stress, then try to keep it simple and look closer to home.
Clean Up Your House
Untidiness and disorder in your living space can play a part in your stress levels. While everybody has different preferences when it comes to organizing their home, neatening up the mess and maintaining some order can help remove the stress within your living space. Remember that stress has a cumulative effect, so even a little stress today adds to the major stresses that are plaguing you daily. The entire cleaning and organizing activity can also help you get some much needed exercise and take your mind off stressful events. There is no need to be a ‘neatness freak’ but organizing your home and your life can have its benefits as part of a stress management initiative.
Try Your Hand At Gardening
It may seem unbelievable that something as simple as mowing the lawn can help with stress reduction but many people will swear by gardening as a relaxation technique. There is some evidence to suggest that the chemicals released into the air by freshly cut grass may block the secretion of stress hormones. But moving beyond the brain chemistry, there may be also some benefit to being close to nature and toiling away in the soil. Furthermore gardening allows you to get outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and get some vitamin D. Sunlight helps with vitamin D production and it is now known that one of the benefits of vitamin D is mental health in terms of reducing depression symptoms.
Commit To Regular Spa Days
Having a day at a spa may not be every person’s cup of tea or within their budget. But if finances permit, you should try a reputable spa. The environment of these facilities are designed to help you relax and spas offer treatments that can actively destress you. A massage has been shown to be effective in easing physical and psychological stress. It can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, and help you sleep better. Coupled with the other treatments at a spa, you can get a quick break from the daily life stresses.