This Tuesday, April 16th, is National Stress Awareness Day (and no it’s not a coincidence that it’s the day after Tax Day). Of course, we all know what stress is, but what you may not know is how it can affect more than just your mental health.
Negative stress, when constant or extreme, can do damage to your mind and body. Stress can lead to anxiety, depression, dizziness, headaches, stomach issues, fatigue, tight muscles, and in extreme cases, heart problems.
While you may not be able to eliminate stress from your life completely, learning how to minimize it and respond to it can do wonders for your health and general well-being. So, in the spirit of the holiday, we’re breaking down seven ways you can work to reduce stress in order to live a more happy, healthy lifestyle.
1. Exercise regularly.
No matter your fitness level, regular exercise can be one of the best things you can do to relieve stress. Getting active releases endorphins, those great little hormones that boost your mood and make you happy. Plus, focusing your thoughts and energy on movement can help reset your mind and fade away stressors from the day.
Not sure where to start? Try taking a group exercise class to get your feet wet.
2. Remember to breathe.
Just like exercise, deep breathing releases endorphins. Seriously! The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, the “count to ten” rule can help, no matter how cheesy it may sound. Just take a step back, take ten deep breaths, then see how you feel before reacting to the situation. A little headspace can work wonders.
3. Manage your time.
Procrastination is the enemy of productivity and can lead to unnecessary stress. Rather than putting something off because the task is daunting or stressful just to think about, manage your time more wisely by setting small goals for yourself over time. That way, you’ll be working and hitting milestones at a steady pace, rather than rushing to get everything done before the due date. With proper planning, deadlines become much less stressful.
4. Get enough sleep.
When your mind is running a mile a minute stressing about all the things you have to do, quieting your brain to get some shut eye can be tricky. However, your brain and body recharge during this time so getting a restful night’s sleep is vital to lowering stress levels.
So how do you quiet your mind long enough to fall asleep? Make sure you have a quiet, relaxing nighttime routine so you can properly wind down when it’s time to hit the hay. Reducing screen time before bed (a good rule of thumb is putting your phone away an hour before you want to fall asleep) and sticking to a consistent schedule are two of the best ways to ensure you can drift off more easily.
5. Assert yourself.
Often times we take on too much without leaving room for much else (you know, like ourselves). Learning to say “no” when necessary can lower stress levels and improve your overall well-being.
While saying yes to every social invitation and work request might help satisfy all parties, it leaves the most important person (that’s YOU) stretched far too thin. Putting yourself second can lead to internalizing negative feelings like anger and resentment, which causes more stress than necessary. Your health should always come first. And trust us, the more you practice saying “no,” the easier it will get.
6. Find a hobby.
Finding something to fill your free time, whether outdoorsy or not, can reduce stress. (Yes, even Netflix binging counts!) When you use your free time to do something you enjoy, you’ll put all your focus and energy into it, which will only make you happier. Rather than wasting time stressing about all the things you should be doing, just know that taking time to do something you enjoy is just as important for your mental health as crossing things off your to-do list.
7. Avoid unhealthy habits.
Some people tend to deal with stress by drinking too much caffeine to keep going, too much alcohol to wind down, or overeating. Sound familiar? Don’t let your stress control what you put in your body. Keeping a balanced diet, even in trying times, can help maintain your health so your body is ready to defend itself against the physical effects of stress when it does crop up.