With a mile-long to-do list, plus family and work commitments competing for your attention, it’s no wonder you sometimes feel stressed. You might not feel like talking about it, but the consequences of ignoring prolonged stress can be serious. Think: Higher risk for chronic illness, such as heart disease, and a greater likelihood for depression can occur, studies show. Let’s not put it off any longer. Here’s how you can start taking action to beat stress right now.
Recognize When You’re Stressed
Being aware of stress symptoms can be the key to stopping it in its tracks. How do you do that? Pay attention to your body’s responses and your state of mind. Realizing that you feel overwhelmed, being paralyzed by decision-making, or having a rising heart rate can be telltale signs that your stress levels are climbing. You’ll be better able to respond and calm yourself down if you recognize a stressful situation before it escalates.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Healthy eating and regular exercise play a vital role in easing stress, research shows. Any physical activity, from walking and strength-training to gardening and playing with your kids, can help reduce stress. Consider following the USDA’s My Plate guidelines for meal-planning tips or working with a nutritionist for a personalized meal plan. When we’re practicing healthy habits overall, we’re better able to cope with stressful situations.
Fight Sleep Deprivation
Many of us overlook the importance of sleep. Getting proper restorative sleep consistently helps repair and rejuvenate our minds and bodies at a cellular level, setting us up for success the next day. Try to set a sleep schedule you can stick to every night. Develop a relaxing nightly routine—like reading or sipping a cup of tea before bed—and make sure your bedroom feels like a sleep sanctuary. Avoid sleep disruptors, like alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and heavy or spicy meals in the evening. Another tip: Shut down your computer, tablet, and cell phone at least an hour before bed. The blue light from the screens can stimulate your brain and make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Try Meditation and Yoga
Daily meditation, even if it’s only for five minutes, can help you feel centered and calm. The goal is to focus on the present moment and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement. Deep breathing exercises often help, too. To get started, try a guided meditation using a mobile app or online course. Yoga has also been linked to stress reduction. Not only can it help you improve total body strength and flexibility, it can also promote a meditative state even after you’re finished.
Got 5 Minutes?
Try these quick stress-relievers next time you’re feeling under pressure:
- Take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling from your diaphragm, to slow down your breathing. You can also close your eyes.
- Step outside—the change in environment and fresh air may soothe you.
- Hug a pet or family member—touch can help relieve stress. And if you can’t reach out to a friend or family member in person, try communicating through a video service.
- Listen to music to try to distract yourself and change your mood.
Practicing these techniques regularly—and any others you think of—can help you beat stress and live a happier and healthier life.