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.
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 the lower-level stress we all feel daily. It can lead to hypertension and a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Are you ready to actively do something to reduce stress every day? 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.
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 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 that constant connectivity and social media create, and it’s no wonder we’re more stressed than ever.
It’s time to stop trying to do everything 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 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 but that you 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.
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.
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 toward reducing or eliminating a trigger if you don’t know what it is.
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.
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 destress regularly is to get a good night’s 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.
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 get more done by investing
time into a good night’s 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 possible, or being silent.
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 like. 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. 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 very least invest in blue light-filtered glasses or install an app that changes your display at night.
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 are 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.