If you asked you right now where your stress is on a scale of 1–10, I’m sure it’s right up at an 8–9.
And it’s pretty safe to say you’d love it at a 2 or 3.
I’m sure you know that you can never completely eliminate stress, but you still want to know how to manage it.
We could all use lower stress right now, but how do you go about this?
Why Don’t You Want Stress to Get Out of Control?
Stress really is the silent killer. A little stress is good for you, but chronic long-term stress is destroying your health and wellness.
The problem is your body doesn’t know the difference between real stress, such as jumping out of the way of a speeding car, and perceived stress such as worrying about finances or bills.
All your body knows is stress is happening and stress hormones such as cortisol are released.
Again, a little is ok, but over the long term, you will not like what it can add up to.
Here are just a FEW of the conditions related to stress:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
This list goes on a lot longer, but I think you’re getting the idea.
So now knowing that your body reacts to stress the same way whether it’s trying to survive a famine or you’re worried about the state of the world right now, how do you manage it?
Here are 3 ways.
1. Get More Sleep Each Night
Sleep is when you become able to burn off these stress hormones. If you are facing a lot of stress and are depriving yourself of sleep, this is like throwing gas on a fire.
The same mechanism kicks in as your body thinks some traumatic event must be going on, which is preventing you from sleeping. Your body then doubles its efforts by releasing more stress hormones.
Aim for the usual 7–8 hours a night, but get some more if you’re feeling really run down or sick. This is when you need to heal and repair.
To get better sleep, try to have the same wind-down process each night so your body recognizes the transition to sleep.
Keep your room as dark as possible and a little on the cool side. Try to cut out caffeine after 2 pm as caffeine can have an extended life of at least 6–8 hours.
And last, try to cut out electronics and screens at least an hour or two before sleep. The blue light screens emit can disrupt your natural melatonin levels leading to inferior sleep.
2. Don’t Forget to Breathe!
Many of us are shallow breathers, and you might be guilty of this too.
Deep breathing — where you really extend the belly and diaphragm — is key in creating better blood flow, reducing stress, and even lowering blood pressure.
Studies have shown that not only does deep breathing help lower stress, but it can also create a better state of mind.
When you’re feeling a lot of stress, take a minute or two to breathe in through the nose for a count of four, hold it for a second or two, and then slowly breathe out for another count of four.
Repeat this at least 4–5 times to help yourself manage that stress.
3. Get Out and Get Moving
I could go on about the benefits of exercise for a multitude of reasons, but let’s look at how you have another built-in stress management system right in your own body — exercise.
Stress creates stress hormones in the body. The Harvard Medical School says that exercise helps to reduce them, specifically adrenaline and cortisol levels.
Exercise also boosts mood-enhancing chemicals in your body.
You’ve heard of the runner’s high as your body is switching into the feel-good mode as opposed to breaking down mode.
If you haven’t been exercising, the good news is you don’t have to train for a marathon. The benefits of exercise — as it relates to managing your stress — are pretty doable.
The sweet spot for exercise is around 150 minutes a week. We can incorporate this in different ways, but if you aim for 30 minutes a day, you’re on your way to better stress management.
This can be as simple as walking or hiking for that 30 minutes a day. If this is new to you, starting slow is in your best interests, there will be more time to get specific with things later.
For now, just get yourself moving and try to build up a bit of a sweat. If you’ve been exercising for a while this is a good time to switch things up.
Remember, the best workout to do is the one you’ve never done yet.
Wrapping it All Up
The first step in managing your stress is to recognize you’ll never be totally rid of it.
The name of the game is management. Many people look for overly complicated ways to try to control their stress but don’t forget to start with the basics.
They are available to you anytime they are free and effective.
Build up these better habits and slowly you’ll find yourself more in control of managing your stress as opposed to it managing you.