Are you feeling stressed? I’d be surprised if you weren’t. Between the growing demands of our jobs, raising a family while working full-time, and the increasing need to stay connected all day every day, most of us feel stressed out more often than we like to admit. Add to it a chronic lack of sleep and exercise and you have a recipe for disaster. Stress kills and that’s no joke. Let’s look at some of the worst negative side effects of stress and what you can do to stress less and relax more.
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Stress Kills – Isn’t It Time You Did Something About It?
- Stress will cause your blood pressure to rise. You’ve experienced this when you found yourself hot and with a raging headache when you were in a particularly stressful situation. Feeling that way from time to time is no big deal. The real danger is in the lower-level stress we all feel on a daily basis. It can lead to hypertension and a higher risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke.
- Next, let’s look at sleep. When you’re stressed, you don’t sleep well. You may even find it hard to sleep at all. Insomnia is a common side effect of living a stressful life. It doesn’t take long before you start to feel the negative side effects of not getting quality sleep. You feel drained, unfocused, and things spiral downward from there quickly. Your body can’t function well and recover without at least a few good hours of sleep per night. For optimal health, destress, and shoot for at least six to eight hours.
- Since stress is so hard on the body and mind, what can you do to reduce it? Quite a bit actually. The most obvious solution is to go to the source of the stress and cut it out of your life. Obviously, that isn’t very practical, or desirable when you’re having a few rough weeks at the job you rely on or your kids are driving you nuts. Instead, try things to actively relax and destress when and where you can to counterbalance the unavoidable. Go for a walk outside. Hit the gym for some exercise. Meditate. Learn some breathing exercises to help calm yourself down whenever you feel particularly stressed. Get plenty of quality sleep. Eat a healthy diet and cut down on sugar and caffeine.
We’ll talk more about how you can stress less and love life in future blog posts. Being aware of the stress and how it is affecting you is a great first step. Now take a deep breath and go for a stroll around the block. Notice how much better you’re feeling already?
Review and Release – Stop Trying to Do All the Things
One of the main reasons why we are so much more stressed than, let’s say, our grandparents were, is because we are taking on a lot more. We have families where each partner is working a full-time job and possibly a side hustle as well to make ends meet financially. That leaves all the hard work of keeping a house and raising a family, which needs to be done during “off” hours.
Most of us no longer mentally clock out at the end of the workday. Instead, we take our work home and are reachable at all hours via text message or email. Add to that the stress constant connectivity and social media create and it’s no wonder we’re more stressed than ever.
It’s Time To do Something About It
- It’s time to stop trying to do all the things all the time and focus on reducing stress in your life. Start by reviewing everything you do on a given day.
- A great tool for this is a time log. Keep a simple piece of paper or a small notebook with you at all times. Set an alert on your phone to go off every 30 minutes (during waking hours), and quickly jot down what you’re doing. Be brutally honest. No one else needs to see this log and you can burn it after you’re done. After a week of logging, you get a pretty good idea of where you spend your time and mental energy.
- Now comes the fun part. Look through your data and decide what you can let go of. What can you stop doing? Open up some time for yourself to exercise, meditate, or to take a nap so you can catch up on much-needed sleep.
Next it’s time to review and release all those worries, questions, and “should-dos” that are stressing you out. Get out another sheet of paper or two and start to write down anything and everything on your mind. All the stuff you’ve been thinking about doing. All the stuff that’s been worrying you. Get it all out. Walk away for a few hours and then come back to your list. Cross out as much as you can. Things that are out of your control and you decide to mentally release. Tasks that you feel like you should do, that you really don’t need to do. Then rewrite what’s left on two different lists. One will be things you can do, or have someone else do for you. This will become your master to-do list for the next few months. The other is a list of worries, or concerns. Notice how much smaller and shorter those lists are and how much lighter you feel just getting it all out of your head.
Slow down! Stop trying to do everything now, now, now. Hold up the people behind you for all you care, feel them kicking at your heels but maintain your pace. Don’t let anybody to dictate your speed.Cecelia Ahern
Last but not least, go burn that master brain dump list. Doesn’t it feel good?
Stress Less And Get More Done By Sleeping More
Do you know what one of the most effective ways to de-stress is? It’s sleeping. Yes, exercise is great and meditation is a wonderful tool, but the best thing you can do to stress less on a regular basis is to get a goodnight sleep.
You already know this is true. Think about how much harder your job and your life in general feel after a night when you were up with the kids, or working until four in the morning to finish an important project. You get grumpy, it’s harder to focus, and every little problem suddenly becomes insurmountable. You feel a lot more stressed throughout the day and it only gets worse if you end up sleeping poorly for several days in a row.
Now here’s the interesting bit. The average person doesn’t get the optimal amount of sleep at night, and even when we do, our sleep quality often isn’t great. Too often our sleep is disrupted throughout the night, even if we don’t fully wake up and most of us struggle with falling asleep.
Thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to improve both the quantity and quality of sleep you get. Before you tell yourself that you can’t afford to sleep more, realize that not focusing on sleep will cause you to be less focused and productive. You’ll actually get more done by investing time into a good-night sleep.
Start By Establishing A Bedtime Routine
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. It helps your body get into a rhythm that makes falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
- Cut distractions from your bedroom. That means leaving your phone in the living room. If you need an alarm, go buy an alarm clock. You don’t want those alerts and notifications keeping you from getting into those all-important deep sleep zones.
- Turn off the lights and have a good look around your bedroom. Are there any small indicator lights or blinking lights? Try to remove them if possible. Listen for any sounds from electronics and the likes.
- Make your bedroom a calm, quiet, and dark place of rest.
Last but not least, watch your screen time at night. Our eyes and the way they process light, including the light waves from our screens have a big impact on how alert the body is. One of the worst habits we’ve all developed is to look at our phones while trying to go to sleep. Biologically it’s the equivalent of watching the sunrise. Stop telling your body it’s time to get up while you’re trying to go to sleep. Instead, focus on calming activities like reading, talking with your partner, or meditating for an hour before going to sleep. Reduce screen time for a few hours before bed or at the least invest in blue light filtered glasses or install an app that changes your display at night.
Meditation, Journaling, And Other Ways To De-Stress
Are you ready to actively do something to reduce stress and annoyance on a daily basis? If not, I would like to encourage you to pick up and develop a daily habit that helps you accomplish just that. Stress not only reduces your quality of life; it can also negatively affect your health. There’s a reason why they say stress kills. Start doing something about it and embrace life to the fullest with some of these simple techniques that help you stress less.
- Start Meditating
One of the best tools for reducing stress is meditation. You can start with a simple breathing meditation by getting comfortable in a quiet spot and focusing on relaxing and thinking about nothing but your breath. From there, give some of the free guided meditations a try. There are even some wonderful apps out there that turn your smartphone into your favorite new meditation device. Set aside a few minutes each day to meditate and watch the stress melt away.
“Meditation is important in increasing a person’s level of self-awareness and managing stress.”Annabelle Higgins
- Keep a Journal
This one may surprise you. A journal is an effective tool to help you worry and stress less. The simple act of writing about what’s on your mind can be incredibly freeing. A journal is also a great tool to help you look back and figure out what’s triggering or causing periods of high stress. This is valuable information to have since you can’t work towards reducing or eliminating a trigger if you don’t know what it is.
Journaling helps you reduce stress and anxiety and get over the minute troubles in your life. You can also get over daily sources of tension as writing down can help you analyze a situation and come up with a solution on the spotDanyale Lebon
- Go For A Walk
Another simple, but very powerful technique is to go for a walk. Get outside if possible, but if that’s not a good option, hop on a treadmill or pace around your house. It doesn’t take a lot of walking before you start to see the benefits. If you only have ten minutes, walk. If you have an hour lunch break, walk for 20 minutes, and spend the rest of the time relaxing and eating. Make it work and get in the habit of walking regularly.
You can walk after you get home from work as a method to reduce stress from the day, or you can go for a short walk during your lunch break to help revitalize your blood flow and stay more alert during the rest of the day.Byron Pulsifer
That’s right. Something as simple as a hug can help you relax and fight stress. Make sure the hug is genuine on both sides and for best results, hold the embrace for at least twenty seconds. You’ll start to feel calm and those endorphins will flood your system. Don’t have anyone around to hug at the moment? Laughing out loud is pretty powerful too. Turn on a fun comedy that leaves you in stitches.
- Clean Up Your Diet
Last but not least, take a look at what you’re putting into your mouth. A clean diet of mostly whole foods that’s low in sugars and preservatives will nourish your body and fight much of the damage stress causes. It will also help you feel calmer and more in control. Start making some small changes and see if you don’t start to feel better.
Exercise Is A Powerful Stress Buster
Did you know that exercise is one of the best ways to beat stress? It works in a variety of different ways, not the least of which is the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Of course, exercise has all sorts of other benefits too, but for now, let’s focus on the stress reducing properties and endorphins play a big role in that. Moderate exercise is also great for your heart and will help reduce blood pressure. In other words, exercise helps you directly combat some of the worst effects of stress.
Another reason exercise is great for stress relief is because it helps you sleep better at night. There’s nothing like deep sleep to help you relax and wake up refreshed and decidedly less stressed. Getting a good workout in or doing a few yoga exercises before bed can help you get to sleep sooner and stay asleep longer. Give exercise a try and see the benefits for yourself.
It doesn’t take a lot of exercise to start seeing the benefits. Something as simple as a ten-minute walk will help and the benefits stack up quickly when you make it a daily habit. You can get out there and walk. Or you can make yourself walk in place in front of the TV during commercial breaks. Get a pedometer that beeps when you’ve been sitting for too long and strive to walk 4,000 steps per day.
Of course, walking isn’t your only option. Any type of physical activity helps reduce stress. Think about something that sounds fun. Maybe you enjoyed playing basketball in high school. Find a rec league that meets once or twice a week or stop by the park on the way home for a quick pickup game. If you enjoy swimming, join a local pool and take a swim before dinner, or first thing in the morning. You can probably shower at the facility and head to work from there.
Regular exercise can really help you to reduce your stress levels, anxiety and depression. When you exercise your brain releases endorphins.Heather Rose
Or how about dancing? You can join a club, take lessons, or just crank up the music and dance around the house whenever you need a break from everything else. Keep it fun and enjoy the additional mood lifting benefits of the music. If you’re ready for a more intense workout, sign up for a Zumba class.
Here’s the key to adding more exercise and physical activity in your life. Try something and see what you can stick with. That’s the most important part. Create some simple routines and habits that will have you moving more and watch the stress melt away.
Embrace the Fun – How Hugs and Laughter Help Reduce Stress
Hugging and laughter help reduce stress. They are such fun, easy, and powerful techniques that anyone can do just about anywhere, I thought it was time to dive a little deeper and look at why they work and how we can actively start using them to reduce the negative effects of chronic stress.
Let’s Start By Talking About Hugs
- Have you ever noticed how a good hug will make you feel better? It calms you and changes your entire outlook on the world and whatever it is that’s been upsetting or stressing you out. Turns out there’s some science behind hugs and a reason we start to feel better.
- There are measurable effects on your heart and on the stress-level of your brain activity when you hug and those benefits will ramp up significantly around the twenty-second mark. As an added bonus, your body will release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. It’s no wonder your whole outlook starts to change after a good hug.
- Start to hug your loved ones or your favorite pet more often and when you do, try to hold the hug for at least twenty seconds. Don’t be creepy about it, but if you’re comfortable – and you should be if you’re sharing a long hug – tell the other person about the benefits of these longer hugs. Before long it will become second nature and you’ll both continue to reap the rewards.
A hug is an amazing thing. It’s just the perfect way to show the love we’re feeling but can’t find the words to say.Johnny Ray Ryder
- When hugging isn’t an option, or if you don’t enjoy them, give laughing a try. It relieves tension and reduces stress. As an added benefit, you’re drawing more air into your lungs, resulting in more oxygen being delivered to your heart, brain, and other important organs. Laughing often can even improve your immune system.
- Put on a funny movie, watch a TV sitcom, read some funny cartoons, call a friend who makes you laugh, or just start laughing and fake it until you start to feel it. Laughter, it turns out, really is great medicine and great for both body and mind.
Fun fact for you. There’s even an entire sub-niche of yoga practitioners who do laughter yoga as a stress-busting technique. Can you see yourself taking a class where you go through various yoga exercises while also making a conscious effort to laugh out loud?
The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
Simply put, mindfulness is about paying attention and living in the moment. Think of it as taking the time to stop and smell the roses. It’s about cutting out the distractions and noise. It’s about choosing to focus on something in particular.
There Are Some Big Benefits To Practicing Mindfulness
- Top among them is of course feeling less stressed. One of the reasons we feel stressed is because we are pulled in many different directions and are constantly bombarded by new information, media, and demands. Practicing mindfulness allows you to tune out the noise and give your mind a break. This, in turn, will help you relieve stress and by making mindfulness part of your daily routine, you can start to permanently reduce stress and negate some of its negative side effects.
- Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. You don’t have to get into any long mindfulness meditations unless you want to. You can start with some very easy and simple things. Let’s take mindful eating for example. Instead of eating in front of the TV or looking at your phone while you munch on a slice of takeout pizza, try this instead. Get out a plate and put your food on it. Arrange the slices of pizza and maybe add a small side salad. If you’re feeling fancy, grab a knife and fork. Sit down at the table and put your phone away. Focus on the food. What does it look like? What does it smell like? How does it taste? Savor each bite and pay attention to how your body is starting to react. Not only is it a great way to destress, but you’ll also find you’ll get a lot more out of each meal and this type of eating tends to keep you from overindulging.
- Another great way to practice mindfulness is with mindfulness meditation. Focus on your breathing and notice how the air rushes in and out of your lungs, what it feels like to have it move in through your nose and out through your mouth. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your abdomen.
- You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere. The hardest part is remembering to do it. Create one or two small rituals for yourself that focus on mindfulness. Maybe it’s a simple meditation in the morning, or really paying attention to that first cup of coffee. Maybe it’s going for a stroll after dinner by yourself where you can practice being mindful of your surroundings and the beauty you encounter. Give it a try and start to reap the many short and long-term benefits of practicing mindfulness.
Always be happy!
An astounding thing happens when you release stress, get into a relationship with your body, mind, and spirit, and just be yourself without judgment.
Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You stop merely looking forward to special events. You begin to live in each moment and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy.
You move fluidly, steadily, calm, and grateful. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born. And this is how you live a stress-free life.
So live a happy, healthy life and always be free of stress!