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These days, stress is a fact of life. Work follows you everywhere on your smartphone; expectations seem higher than ever thanks to social media; and there’s always something that doesn’t go according to plan. The good news is there are simple strategies you can follow to beat stress and start feeling more fulfilled and joyful each day.
Everyone has stress. And some stress is even normal or helpful. Like the kind that instills the ‘fight-or-flight’ response when confronted with a truly dangerous situation.
For most people however, stress is not the lifesaving kind, and negatively affects our lives. You might have chronic stress if…
With chronic stress linked to numerous health issues, here are seven surefire ways you can reduce your stress level and restore some sanity to your days.
Meditation doesn’t have to take long. The simple act of closing your eyes and taking 10 deep breaths only takes a few minutes and can help you refocus at any point during the day.
Whenever possible, start off your day with a few moments of mindfulness before you get up. Focus on your breath and center in on what you are grateful for, whether that is your family, faith, or health.
Forming a mind-body connection goes beyond stress reduction. One study, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, shows mindfulness results in molecular changes that can help reduce damaging inflammation.
It might seem hard to make time for exercise when you’re overwhelmed. However a short walk, bike ride, or yoga class offers lasting benefits.
Even small amounts of exercise increase blood flow to the brain, which can support the growth of new blood vessels. As you exercise, feel-good chemicals such as serotonin are released in the brain, so you feel better.
When possible, exercise outside in nature. Researchers in Japan have studied how walking in nature, a practice called shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” can cause the stress hormone cortisol to fall, and also lower blood pressure.
If you find yourself lacking motivation or just feeling low, it could be that you’re deficient in vitamin D. Studies show around 40% of people are deficient in this essential vitamin, and it often goes undiagnosed since the symptoms resemble feeling stressed.
Get your vitamin D levels checked, and if you can’t get 10-20 minutes of full summertime sun to make enough vitamin D, consider supplementing with a quality source.
If you normally reach for caffeine to kick start your day, it could be contributing to your stress levels. That’s because high doses of morning caffeine can interfere with your body’s production of cortisol, your stress hormone.
This is especially worrisome if you consume energy drinks, due to the astronomically high levels of sugar, synthetic caffeine and other additives.
Instead, reach for a cup of tea in the morning. Research shows tea is protective of the brain and comes with compounds that promote calm focus.
Getting the right nutrition is essential to being able to combat stress, whether it’s to support your immune health or bolster your natural energy.
Research shows consuming more fruits and veggies can have positive changes in as little as two weeks, with a big boost in energy, motivation and vitality.
Adaptogen herbs are another nutrition strategy to use against stress. They work by strengthening your body’s response to stress, promoting faster recovery.
These herbs include eleuthero root, ginseng and Rhodiola rosea. If taking adaptogens individually is a hassle, opt for an all-in-one green juice so you get all your healthy superfoods at once.
Think about how you feel after one night of bad sleep—not only is it hard to get started, you may be cranky and lethargic throughout the whole day.
Repeatedly losing out on sleep has dire health consequences, from worsening short-term memory, hormone disruption, weight gain, and reduced immunity.
Aim for 7 to 9 hours of shuteye each night. If you struggle to fall asleep, shut off screens an hour before bed, and try mindful meditation to relax.
It might sound too good to be true, but eating a small amount of chocolate each day is a delicious and healthy way to beat stress.
That doesn’t mean regular chocolate though; the health benefits come with dark chocolate, about 70% cacao or higher.
Dark chocolate has antioxidants that support healthy blood pressure, and comes with two compounds (resveratrol and anandamide) that positively affect mood and feelings of well-being.