Three Great Ideas for Stress Reduction to use Daily
Stress has many causes but whatever the origin, it really takes a toll on the body when it prevails for the long-term. We are evolved to respond automatically to threats to help ensure survival. When the brain perceives a dangerous situation, it goes into “fight or flight” mode so that we can have optimum physical function to either escape as quickly as we can or have maximum strength and brain power to fight the danger if escape is not an option. This kind of short-term stress can help you focus and solve problems, but when we don’t return to a calm state, long-term stress is hard on our health and happiness. A truly joyful and enjoyable life can only come when we remove stress.
The Body’s Stress Response
Imagine that you’re hiking in the desert, talking to a friend or admiring the view, and up ahead of you on the trail you see a snake. Your body reacts before you’re consciously aware of the threat. It involuntarily triggers the fight-or-flight response in an area of your brain that is responsible for basic bodily functions like breathing and digesting. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises and you start breathing more quickly. All your muscles throughout your body tense up, ready to deal with the danger. This is your body preparing you to handle the perceived threat.
While you’re preparing to flee from the threat or defend yourself against it, it also goes into preservation mode. It becomes optimized to conserve energy and take every step to keep you alive in face of danger. Your body stops digesting your food and maintaining your immune system. Everything but survival is now less important.
Modern Day Stressors can Accumulate
The stress response just described is the same response that your body has every time you feel stressed, snake or no snake. Whether you’re feeling anxious about deadlines, money, or an upcoming meeting; stress has the same effect on your body. When you don’t get a chance to relax and have the stress dissipate, your resilience weakens and each stressor tends to build on the next. Soon, the little things that didn’t formerly bother you trigger the stress response that would normally only arise when there is a true threat.
What’s the ideal solution? It’s important to incorporate stress management strategies into your life. The more you work on these strategies, the lower your stress levels are and the higher your threshold for stress becomes. This means that those little things that were starting to be too much dwindle in their ability to impact your peace of mind. Here are three stress management strategies you can use to try to help you lower your stress level:
Stress Reduction Tip #1: Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a calming practice that is gaining more visibility and popularity these days. The practice can be challenging at first as we can be accustomed to having plenty of mind chatter that distracts us from being in the moment. Every moment, however, can be an opportunity for practicing mindfulness. Start by simply building an awareness of your breath. It seems so basic but it really helps to ground you in your body. If that would be a big challenge for you, try to start practicing breath awareness in moments that are relatively free from distraction. Try reserving tedious, repetitive tasks like cleaning your kitchen, ironing or folding laundry for times when you can incorporate practicing mindfulness. Practice this by focusing on your breath or the task at hand instead of listening to the radio. Let any other thoughts pass through your mind as you focus on your breath and the tactile and sensory experience. Like anything worth doing, with practice it becomes easier to remain mindful. You may even start to look forward to these chores.
Stress Reduction Tip #2: Start an Exercise Routine
Try to establish a routine for exercise by doing a similar type of exercise such as walking or running at the same time every day. Studies show that it takes about twenty-one days to form a habit. If you can keep up your exercise routine long enough, before long, it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth. A daily walk has a multitude of benefits for your overall health. It can even boost your mood too! Once you get used to it, you will miss it on the days you have to skip it.
Stress Reduction Tip #3: Drink More Water
When you drink plenty of water, your adrenal glands function more efficiently and thus you can reduce the production of a main stress hormone: cortisol. Dehydration alone is enough to raise your cortisol levels. This is because water helps your body maintain all of its basic functions. If you don’t have enough fluids for it to do this, then your body interprets it as a problem and becomes stressed, so the levels of cortisol will go up.
Several factors affect how much water your body ideally requires. You should take into consideration your regular activity levels, your environment, and your general health. For example, if you live in an area that is typically arid, you will need to drink more water than someone living in a cooler, wetter climate.