Editor’s Note: In today’s post, Melissa Tamura from the Zen College Life blog reminds us of the lifestyle changes needed to keep stress under control.
We live in a fast-paced world. Most of us have a hard time trying to juggle our families, careers and social lives simultaneously. I’m not saying it’s impossible to strike a balance between the three, but the effort needed to pull this off would leave anyone feeling stressed.
With that said, it will probably come as a surprise to you that stress is a necessary part of life! Our bodies are designed to undergo a hormonal and biochemical transformation when faced with a tense situation. It’s called the fight-or-flight response. Your digestive and immune systems shut down, heart rate increases, and adrenaline surges in your bloodstream to help you stay alert and focused until the danger passes.
But if you remain revved up like this for long stretches of time, these natural processes affect your health in a negative way, leaving you exhausted and burned out.
Stress is inevitable. It’s not only triggered by your environment but also by your emotions. That doesn’t mean it should control your life though. Here are 5 natural ways you can start relieving stress today:
- Breathe deeply– This is the simplest and fastest way to reduce anxiety. If you feel your blood pressure soaring, take a break from what you’re doing. Sit down or stand up against a wall with your back straight. Inhale and exhale slowly, making sure to expel as much air as possible. Count to eight before starting each cycle.
- Meditate– Begin the day by quieting your mind. This will put you in a peaceful mind frame before tackling all that awaits you. If you find that you’re suddenly overwhelmed as you’re working, find a silent place to sit down. Focus on a sound, image or word that will have a relaxing effect and set you at ease.
- Exercise– Physical activity is an excellent way to release frustration. High-intensity sports like kickboxing offer a safe and controlled environment to let out aggression. However, even walking for as little as 20 minutes can do wonders in calming the nervous system. Strive to exercise five or more times a week for best results.
- Change your diet– When we’re stressed, our bodies crave sustenance in the form of sugar, carbohydrates and caffeine. These foods produce serotonin, a feel-good hormone. Your body doesn’t stay satisfied though – after a while it needs more fuel. Basically, your sugar levels spike and fall, leading you to overindulge. Make an effort to eat well-balanced meals and healthy snacks to prevent this downward spiral. Doing so will help you avoid stress in the first place. (Here are 5 healthy mood improving foods to help you out.)
- Sleep– Most of us don’t get the recommended amount of sleep we should. Sometimes this is out of our hands (e.g. if you’re a parent). But for the most part, we’re sabotaging ourselves by staying up late at night. Taking naps throughout the day is one way to recharge and feel refreshed. However, if this is not possible, you need to initiate a bedtime routine. Turn off the television and computer an hour or so before sleep. Minimize light sources in your room, e.g. your digital alarm clock. The key is to ease your mind before you go to bed.
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