The health risks associated with stress are far-reaching and well-documented. People suffering from chronic stress conditions are more likely to experience insomnia and mental health problems. Stress also makes you more likely to gain weight and develop cardiovascular diseases, as well as increasing your chance of suffering from strokes and diabetes. And that’s just naming a few of the risks.
The consequences of stress make it very clear that avoiding stress as much as possible is a thing to keep in mind if you hope to live a long and healthy life. That said, we don’t all get the luxury of living tostress-free lives. So the only option is to settle for the second-best solution: to continually look for and engage with habits that help calm us down and regulate our stress levels.
If you’ve been looking for new ways to help manage your stress, here are some methods that are worth a try.
1. Manage your sleep
Sleep aids the body in a variety of critical bodily functions, and one of them is restoring the body’s hormonal balance. That is a critical function to keep in mind because your hormones are also what regulates your body’s stress response.
Trouble sleeping won’t necessarily cause stress on their own. But lack can impede your body’s ability to normalize your stress levels overnight after a tense day, and which in turn can promote the accumulation of stress over several days. Lack of sleep may also make you irritable, which makes you easier to stress.
The solution is to do your best to manage your sleep and make sure you get plenty of sleep every night. Following a strict sleep schedule and having a decompressing routine that helps you calm down before bed can both help prevent sleep troubles. And if nothing else seems to be helping, seek a sleep therapist to help get your sleep in order.
Insomnia is more than an inconvenience. Since lack of sleep can cause more stress and stress can affect your sleep, the two combined can lead to a downward spiral. And getting your sleep under control will go a long way towards helping your body handle stress better.
2. Eat healthy foods
Your diet can have a big impact on your body’s ability to regulate your mood. The exact details on how that works are still a bit fuzzy, but as a general rule, diets that are low in fat and sugar and high in vitamins and fiber are linked to lower stress levels, as well as overall better health.
It’s also a good idea to make foods that contain probiotics as part of your diet. Fermented foods and drinks like ginger kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut all contain beneficial microorganisms that help your body digest different foods.
3. Pack healthy snacks
Eating more frequently throughout the day can also improve your mood and your ability to perform under stress. Your body needs plenty of glucose to function properly, and being in stressful situations tends to burn your body’s resources faster. This is one of the reasons why the instinct to stress eat exists.
You can scratch that itch and help with mood regulation by packing healthy snacks when you know you’ll have a stressful day ahead. Look for snacks that pack plenty of fiber and proteins, like sugar-free protein bars, fresh fruit, yogurt, and more.
4. Cut back on caffeine
Caffeine is a common fixture of the modern workplace and it can be very useful. Not only can the stimulant properties of caffeine help boost your productivity, but the substance is also associated with a variety of health benefits, including being linked to a reduced likelihood of developing dementia at old age.
That said, caffeine is also an anxiogenic substance, capable of making both stress and anxiety work. So if you’re looking to reduce your stress levels or deal with a serious condition, switching to decaffeinated coffee is a good idea.
5. Stop smoking
Another stimulant to be aware of is nicotine. While cigarettes are often thought of as having a calming effect, nicotine is also a stimulant that boosts feelings of stress and anxiety.
The initial feeling of calmness is caused by the feelings of nicotine withdrawal going away as you smoke. But nicotine withdrawal can start again as soon as 2 hours after your last cigarette. And smoking on the whole can enhance both stress and anxiety.
Like sleeping, exercising can also help your body relax while regulating your hormonal levels. Both of which add up to make regular exercise an effective tool for stress management. On top of that, regular exercise helps strengthen your cardiovascular system, which is one of the main areas typically affected by long-term stress.
This means that on top of helping you stay calm, regular exercise will also help your body endure some of the negative effects caused by long-term stress. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can be useful for mood regulation, and the World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week. Or 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. That combined with at least 2 days of strength training a week will go a long way towards promoting mood regulation, on top of benefiting your overall health.
7. Practice mindful meditation
Mindful meditation involves focusing on sensory information in order to be both more present and more aware of your current state of mind. It’s one of the most basic types of meditation out there, one that you can practice anywhere at any time in just a couple of minutes. And one of the key benefits of mindful meditation Is lowering one’s stress levels.
There are many methods of mindful meditation out there, some of which include breathing exercises and guided imagery. And research has found mindful meditation to be helpful when dealing with everything from stress to insomnia. So if you’re looking for a way to help you relax, taking some mindful meditation classes and practicing every day might help.