It’s no secret stress is an unavoidable part of everyday life, but we don’t have to let it control us. Some of us are so used to being frazzled and worn out it’s easy to forget that we don’t have to give in to it.
The list of side effects of stress is almost endless. It can cause hair loss, muscle pain, and disrupted sleep patterns. In extreme cases, it can even lead to even more serious concerns including increased risk of suicide.
Luckily, we can avoid issues such as these by choosing to change the way we react to stress. We’ve collected 15 of the best, proven strategies in reducing stress and making life just that little bit calmer.
1. Spend Time with a Furry Friend
In addition to being willing cuddle buddies and comedic YouTube fodder, our beloved pets have also been shown to reduce stress. Dogs, in particular, have been shown to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and even detect serious illnesses in their human companions. Pet owners have been shown to have better self esteem than non-pet owners and feel much less stressed. Stroke a puppy today and try it out.
2. Adjust Your Attitude
In today’s society there’s a huge amount of pressure to “have it all.” Whether you’re running yourself ragged at work or tearing your hair out trying to raise a family, ask yourself whether it’s really worth it. When you feel as if no one’s listening to your ideas or that you’ll never get your to do list completed, try to reframe the thought in a positive light.
With practice, meditation can be a great weapon against stress. It acts as the reverse of the fight or flight response, restoring your body to a calm, resting state. The joy of it is that it’s free and can be practiced almost anywhere. Need help? Well, of course, there’s an app for that.
4. Run It Off
It’s no secret exercise releases endorphins into the body, which are a natural painkiller and help promote natural sleep. They’ve also been shown to reduce tension and stabilize mood, so strap your sneakers on and get moving. If you’re not a fan of running, try one of these less-horrible fitness trends.
5. Express Your Stress
Let it all out. Write in a journal, slap paint onto canvas, or get stuck into your latest craft project. Participating in an art-based therapy has been shown to help people with stress express their problems in alternative ways, rather than bottling it up.
Laughter really is the best medicine. It stimulates organs, improves pain and soothes tension. Put on your favorite comedy movie, get your friends together, and laugh the stress away.
7. Stop Checking Your Email
It may feel like you can’t ignore any email that pops up on your phone or computer screen, but it may be better to do so. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that resisting the temptation to check your email constantly can greatly reduce stress.
8. Practice Mindfulness
It’s easy to rush through life, trying to do everything and yet noticing nothing. Mindfulness aims to help you focus on the here and now, instead of worrying about what is out of your control.
You can practice mindfulness simply by picking a certain time during your day, such as your commute to work, and focusing in on the sensations around you. What can you smell? What can you feel? Try your best to be aware of what is going on around you.
With current gadgets such as smartphones keeping us connected every waking second, it can be incredibly hard to switch off. British research shows turning off the phone and stepping away from your laptop can help you recharge and relax. Head out and enjoy nature; Facebook can wait.
10. Get More Sleep
It’s difficult when you’re stressed, but trying to get more sleep can really help. The trick is to avoid any kind of LED screen before bedtime, such as your phone or TV. Research has shown the light emitted from these disturbs your sleep cycle, making it harder to fall asleep.
11. Chew Some Gum
A slightly left field option, but studies suggest chewing gum helps reduce cortisol levels, which in turn reduces stress.
12. Switch to Decaf
Do you reach for the coffee every morning before you can even think about getting started with your day? Think again. Caffeine works by increasing the production of stress hormones in the body, which can remain in the bloodstream for up to 18 hours. Switch to decaf to avoid these effects, and feel the difference.
13. Stop Trying to do Everything
If you’re wearing yourself out trying to get everything done, take a step back and prioritize your “to do” list. Is every task on it vital? Can anything wait until tomorrow? You’ll probably find the world won’t end if you don’t tick everything off, so you can afford to relax more.
14. Schedule Worry Time
Having a lot of things on your mind all the time will wear you out. Put aside a few minutes a day to deal with the issues that are causing you stress. Having a set time and place planned out will instantly remove some of the weight from your shoulders.
15. Admit You’re Stressed
When we’re expected to do everything, and do it with a smile, it’s hard to admit we’re just too stressed to do so. Simply saying no occasionally will preserve your productivity and save your sanity.
These tips should hopefully give you the tools to change the way you deal with every day stress. Taking even small steps will do a great deal to improve your emotional well-being. And hey, some experts even say that stress is good for us!