An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is certainly true when it comes to stress. The best approach to avoiding the negative effects of stress is to prevent stress whenever you can. We’ve put together our best tips to help you keep stress at bay!
But before we dig in, let’s explore some background facts about stress. How does stress impact your general wellness and mental health? What are the physical symptoms of excessive stress? How can mindfulness, exercise, deep breathing, and other stress management techniques help you protect your body and mind in the long run?
What is stress?
Stress is simply your body’s reaction to the normal demands and threats of daily life. It’s perfectly natural and healthy to feel stress in small doses. In fact, stress is a little bit like pain – it’s your body’s way of alerting you to a problem that needs to be addressed.
In most people, the stress response causes a slew of physiological changes. This includes a spike in cortisol (“the stress hormone”), an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, the slowing of digestion, and certain changes in brain activity. Again, none of these reactions are dangerous in short bursts. It’s when stress becomes prolonged – i.e. “chronic stress” – that serious health risks start cropping up.
Stress & long-term wellness
Prolonged, excessive stress has been linked to a huge number of major health issues. This includes major mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. It also includes weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease. For people with diabetes, stress can make blood sugar levels much more difficult to control, which greatly increases complications related to this serious health condition. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s no surprise, then, that stress management has become such an integral part of modern wellness practices. Simple, daily practices – like yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation – are incredibly powerful ways to bring down your daily stress level and protect your long-term health. Let’s explore 10 simple tips to simplify and streamline your stress management.
1. Create a “get out of jail” phrase
Saying “no” can be hard, but it’s important to think ahead about the consequences of saying yes and whether it will cause you unwanted stress. Try coming up with a “get out of jail” phrase that you can use when you feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do — think, “my heart says yes, but my health says no.”
2. Share your workload
Delegation is a tough subject, but if you’ve ever said to yourself “I wish there were more hours in the day,” then it’s a skill worth developing. Delegating can help you tackle your to-do list and ensure there is still enough time to take care of you. For example, your spouse and children can help clean the house, shop for food, prepare meals, and do laundry, or your co-worker might be able to help with an overwhelming project at work. When people are trying to help, being critical can often be a source of stress. Instead, say thank you, be patient, and appreciate them taking a little bit off of your plate!
3. Make a to-do list and keep reminders
Get your mental to-do list out on paper. Simply writing down all of your responsibilities and tasks can help you feel less overwhelmed. Even with a to-do list, it’s always a good idea to keep reminders on your calendar, phone, desk, or by your computer. Again, reducing the mental clutter can help you feel more calm and ready to take on each task at hand.
4. Set small, realistic goals
Setting a goal that you perceive as being far from where you are now can be a big source of stress. Setting realistic goals that you are confident you can achieve can elicit the short-term positive stress you need to achieve these and future goals.
5. Reach out to others
Think about who you can turn to. Asking a supportive friend, family member, or colleague for support when you are beginning to feel overwhelmed and need some extra encouragement, or when you need advice, can prevent you from feeling stressed.
6. Get moving
Many people find that being active helps them feel more relaxed and makes it easier to manage stressful situations. Try using physical activity as a way to prevent stress — you can give yourself a break and get your health on at the same time. Now that sounds like a win-win!
7. Rest up
When you’re deprived of sleep, small stressors can seem too difficult to bear! Getting a good night’s sleep can help you be more productive throughout the day and less stressed in the end.
8. Plan ahead
Think about the kind of situations that are stressful for you. Plan ahead of time for how you will handle these situations when they come up so that they don’t cause unnecessary stress in the moment, or come up with ways to work around them altogether.
9. Keep your eyes on the prize
Feeling uncomfortable or uneasy in a situation causes many people to feel stressed. Sometimes a little discomfort is a means to a greater end. Taking it one step at a time and focusing on the bigger picture can help you prevent undue stress.
10. Have fun!
Make time to do something you enjoy each day. Whether it’s reading the newspaper in the morning, meeting friends for evening tea, or taking a bubble bath each night, take care of your body and mind to prevent stress from building up over time.
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