Stress is a normal part of life. It is a human being’s natural response to threats – our bodies’ way of minimizing injury from harm, imagined or otherwise. At times, it is even useful as a warning to ourselves or a motivator for that last push we need. But dealing with stress can prove to be quite a chore, especially if it builds up to chronic levels.
When stress becomes a daily part of life, it can become quite problematic. It wears us down and harms us both mentally and physically. It also interferes with our functional capabilities and makes every task much harder than it should be. The worst part is there is no reliable way to recognize exactly how critical our stress levels are. But that does not mean there is nothing we can do about it.
Here are a few proven ways to help you cope with stress and get some much-needed relief.
10 Ways to Deal with Stress
There is a reason why tranquility is often linked to the image of a person in meditation. Meditation has been in vogue for thousands of years and with good reason.
The practice has been linked to stress reduction as well as alleviation of anxiety, and depression. People who meditate regularly worry less and function better cognitively. Meditation has also been shown to improve overall well-being and aiding with attention deficiency as well as addiction and other bad habits. And the wonderful thing about meditation is that it can be practiced easily.
The most common reasons why a lot of people do not meditate is because they believe that it takes a lot of time and is difficult to practice. But that is just a common misconception. You can meditate conveniently anytime of the day in your own home. And best of all, you do not really need a guide or a therapist to aid you.
One of the most basic exercises is to simply be aware of the moment. Just close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Then slowly expand your awareness to the sensations that your body is feeling – from the sensations that you feel on your skin to the little subtle little activities that you can feel within you. Then further expand your focus to envelop the external – the sounds, the smells, and the sense of everything around you. Finally, slowly the reverse the entire process till your focus returns to your breath and then open your eyes.
As you can see, it’s quite simple and you don’t really need anything fancy or a lot of time to perform it. Just take a few minutes off your day to practice one of the many meditation techniques that works for you and let it help you be free of stress.
2. Spend time with Friends.
On the most basic level, human beings are social animals. We are hardwired to seek company for survival, and perform much better when we interact with other people. So, the next time you are feeling stressed, reach out to family and friends (or even a pet!)
Engaging socially is an amazing method of stress relief. Not only does it distract you, science has also proven that positive social interactions reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
Friends and family offer much to our lives. They can help us in times of need and add joy to our celebrations. Although stress often makes us want to isolate ourselves, distancing ourselves from others does not help relieve stress.
Remember that you really don’t need a reason to hang out with people you care about. And it doesn’t have to be a complex affair either. It can be something as simple as meeting up for lunch or having a conversation on the phone.
3. Put on your favorite tunes.
Music is a well-known stress reliever. And listening to music you love has been proven to decrease the level of stress hormones in your body and release feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine into your brain.
Listening to or playing music is a very soothing and enjoyable method of stress relief. In fact, music has also been shown to improve cognitive functioning in people suffering from severe conditions, like Alzheimer’s Disease.
Pop in a pair of earphones or tune into your favorite radio station. Hum or sing to yourself even, if you do not have access to any devices that can play music. Let it relax you and lift your spirits – and keep you far far away from negative emotions like rage.
It has become almost impossible to turn ourselves off in the modern world. In addition to work and life in general, we now have the internet and smartphones that always keeps us ‘plugged in’.
And that just isn’t healthy.
Studies have shown that devices that keep us connected to the world (especially smartphones) play a significant part in increasing our level of stress. We feel compelled and pressured to always be ready to respond to messages at any given time. And that type of behavior courts anxiety and stress.
Do not let yourself be overwhelmed by the digital world. Set up specific times during the day to respond to text messages and emails. Once you’re done, put your device on mute and keep it out of sight and mind. Every text message you receive does not require your immediate attention. Besides, if somebody is texting you instead of calling you, the issue is probably not that important anyway.
5. Get more zzzzzz…
Sleep is a natural and vital human function that allows our bodies and minds to rest. Most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep everyday to be able to function properly. So, it is no surprise that we are harmed both physically and mentally when we are deprived of sleep.
Sleep deprivation disrupts the cognitive ability of the human mind and affects hormone production and the immune system in the body. A lack of sleep has also often been associated with (often fatal) accidents that could have easily been prevented.
The interesting thing about the relationship between stress and sleep deprivation is that they are symbiotic. Because lack of sleep promotes anxiety, stress, and depression. And, at the same time, piling on stress promotes insomnia because you just have too much to think about to be able to go to sleep. This in turn promotes a vicious cycle that keeps escalating until it feels like you might break down or worse.
Make sure you get enough sleep everyday – or at least the required minimum amount. If you have trouble falling asleep, try to tire yourself out before bed or read something that bores you before sleep. Listen to soothing music, if you believe it will help.
Also, remember to never work or do other stress inducing activities in your bedroom. Mental associations can cause you to believe that your bedroom is a place to work and keep you from sleeping or vice versa.
Exercise is good for the body. Everybody knows that. But what a lot of people know is that exercise is very good for reducing stress as well.
Whether it is martial arts or yoga, any form of exercise can help in managing stress. Studies show that, in addition to helping reduce stress and anxiety, regular exercise also lessens fatigue, improves focus, and promotes overall mental and emotional health. And the reason for this is endorphins.
When you exercise, your body naturally releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin into your system. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain-killer hormones while serotonin plays an important part in regulating your general mental and emotional well-being. This is why those who exercise tend to get a ‘high’ after their workouts and are generally more positive and energized than those who do not. Additionally, exercise also boosts your self-esteem.
You don’t have to exercise like an Olympian to get the benefits of exercise. Even a mere five minutes of exercise can significantly reduce stress. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a pair of sneakers and start running!
When it comes to stress, laughter is indeed the best medicine.
Studies suggest that, much like exercise, laughter releases endorphins and has many long term health benefits like a better immune system, improved blood circulation, and muscle relaxation. In addition, laughing also helps unclog negative emotions in your mind, particularly anxiety, anger, and discomfort. In many ways, laughter is the natural antidote for stress.
Whether it is by watching a funny video online or doing something amusing with friends, try to find the time for hilarity in your life. Laughter is good for you, and it’s many benefits are no joke.
8. Get Intimate.
It’s no great secret that physical intimacy is a great tension reliever. But did you know that a loving sexual relationship can greatly reduce stress as well?
Stress and sex share a relationship that is very similar to the one between stress and sleep. On one hand, stress can greatly reduce libido. But on the other hand, sex is a great way to reduce stress.
The main reason for this strange relationship is again due to chemicals in the body. Stress causes your body to release chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline – the human body’s natural stress response hormones. And although they help us cope with stressful situations, too much of these can cause us to enter a state of chronic stress. And along with that come a long list of negative effects like cognitive impairment, higher blood pressure, and of course greatly reduced libido.
Being in a sexually intimate and loving relationship can combat this. During sex, the body releases oxytocin (also known as the love hormone), which is most commonly reduced during orgasms, childbirth, or any form of emotional bonding. In addition to physical benefits like reduction of cardiac strain, oxytocin also encourages pro-social behaviors and promotes relaxation and psychological stability. It has also been shown to greatly reduce stress and anxiety in numerous species, including human beings.
A healthy sex life can do wonders for you. Not only does it relieve stress, it’s also amazing for your overall health. So, the next time you feel under the stress, take some time off to get intimate with your partner and let all your stress disappear.
9. Unleash your inner Da Vinci.
Let’s be honest: not all of us are good at art. But that does not mean we can’t all benefit from the act of creating art.
Studies show that engaging in a creative activity can significantly reduce stress, regardless of talent or the final product. It’s true! And honestly, it shouldn’t be that surprising.
The entire process of creating art has a lot to do about release. We have to open ourselves up in order to convert and capture what is within us in a canvas or words. And during the process, you have to concentrate on the act of creating – keeping you focused in the moment and on the task at hand. Finally, you get a sense of bliss and accomplishment when you finish your creation.
And you really don’t have to be a modern-day William Shakespeare to benefit from such a liberating experience.
10. Don’t Procrastinate.
What better way to end this article than with a friendly reminder to not put your plans off for another time?
Because when we procrastinate, we allow things to pile up. And it’s easy to believe that we have enough time to take care of pending work until the work we put off suddenly overwhelms us. And that leads to stress along with a host of other negative emotions.
Learn to prioritize your work. Make a to-do list and give yourself realistic deadlines. There’s no reason why you can’t have breaks in between but make sure it does not slow you down. Remember: staying on top of your work is a surefire way to ward off stress.
Stress may be unavoidable but that is no reason for us to ignore it. Left unchecked, stress can dictate our lives and become very dangerous for our well-being.
Of course, managing stress can be quite a challenge – even with these tips. But remember that you should never give up. If something isn’t working for you, try another approach. The power to relieve you of stress is in your own hands.
And as always, good luck!
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