How to reduce stress with these 5 simple habits
Did you know that last week it was the Mental Health Awareness week ? If it’s up to me you should pay attention to how do you feel all year round. There are many things influencing your mental health, negative or positive. Since the negative ones count more, unfortunately, stress is the thing I will discuss with you today.
Stress is one of the biggest causes of mental health problems. But, what is it actually? Is there only mental stress? How does it influence your overall health? What could you do to reduce the stress you experience? Few practical tips on how to do this.
What is stress?
That’s a good question. Everyone speaks about it, but do you know what it is?
In the past, our ancestors were dependent on nature. We all still are, but back then people could only survive if they could provide enough food for themselves. So, imagine, you are in the woods, hunting to feed your family back home. Suddenly, you see a big brown bear, right in front of you. Your eyes become big and round, your heart is beating as it will spring out of your chest, your blood is pulsing on your forehead. All your body is bursts of stress hormones, you feel the tension everywhere. What should you do? How do you think?
Do you think your great grandpa was meeting that bear every day? No, he didn’t. He probably didn’t hunt every day either. So, obviously once in a while, he did get that feeling of run or die.
“Being busy being busy” is the modern mantra of humanity.
Now, let’s talk about your life. Do you have to go hunting to survive? Some of you still do this for fun, I can imagine. But food is not an issue anymore. At least for most of you.
And now imagine just an ordinary day at your office, or wherever else you are working. I remember working till late in the night to meet the deadline of the project I was working on. And not a day or two. Because after a project, there comes another one, and then the next one. So, the show goes on each and every time. And if you can’t cope with the pressure you get the stamp “not stress-resistant” or you just get burned out. Like a candle.
It’s all about efficiency, doing more in less time, more tasks spread over fewer employees. And that is sad, very sad.
Multitasking is another “clever” creation of modern society.
You can not multitask! Simply because your brain can’t do a few things at the same time. Most of the people are not as efficient when they try to multitask then as they focus on one task at a time. There are some exceptions of course, but if you are not one of these exceptions please keep reading.
But not only your work causes stress. Food could also be a cause of stress for the body. I mean wrong food, such as fast food and all ready prepared microwave dishes. In general, all processed food and its ingredients cause oxidation stress in your body. But, I will dive deeper into this interesting subject in another article.
How does stress influence your mental health?
When you let stress build up (I am not talking about this one time you felt your hands and your forehead sweating), your life can turn upside down.
In the beginning, you will find yourself irritable, drained of your energy, hungry all the time and just miserable with your life. You most probably think you can cope with all this or that it will resolve from itself. I thought so too. Mostly you don’t have time to think about it, you are just being busy.
If you succeed to tame your stress at this point it is good. You still can go back to your set point without too much effort. But, you can not avoid stress. That is why you will have to learn how to lead your stress in the right direction.
Pity enough, the things get rough sometimes. Stress can influence your mental health. When it brings a burn out to you for instance. Although it is often times not recognized as a medical condition, burn out could be very tough to get out of.
How does stress influence your physical health?
There is a lot going on in your body during stressful moments. When you feel threatened by something your adrenal gets the task to manage the situation. Your body releases the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
There is a lot of energy necessary to manage a stressful situation.
Your immune system, sleep, digestion are put on snooze for the moment. Your system has something more important to deal with and this is stress.
If the stress goes on and on for a long period of time it influences your health in one or another way. And the most sneaky of this is that you don’t even notice that there is something wrong happening inside your body.
Your hormones get out of balance. Your hormones take care of a countless number of body functions.
So, when they are out of balance you get problems with your thyroid, your pancreas, intestine and your digestion. Your sex hormones are going crazy too.
5 simple things I do to feel less stressed.
Hmm, what do I do when I feel stressed?
- First of all, I take a deep breath. A few times. This helps me to calm down for the moment. It really does. Breathwork is the first basic thing you learn when you practise yoga. Actually, when you take a deep breath you increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood, which quiets down these parts of your brain which handle your anxiety reaction. More carbon dioxide also helps synchronize your heartbeat and breathing. So, you decrease increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure which capture you completely at such moments.
- Next, I try to find some distraction for a short while. This helps me to shift my attention for a moment from the problem causing the stress. After a short while, I am able to see the whole problem causing stress more clear.Going for a walk outside is the perfect way to get yourself out of the situation for some time. I believe the connection with nature has some magic power to calm me down.
When I come back I can have a fresh look at the problem. That increases the chance I can find a solution. Or to change my perspective. Part of the problems is not so big as they seem, oftentimes.
On a longer run the following things could be of help:
- Eat healthy and nutritious food. You know that people with a healthy lifestyle have a nice disposition and feel good about themselves. Your gut is connected to your brain. So, food as greens, nuts, fish, fermented foods and fruit can help your body to produce more of the happiness chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
- Try to unplug. What do I mean by that? Have you ever have noticed that often when you are not in a good mood or you are tired you just grab your phone and you spend hours mindlessly scrolling and staring at others happiness. But mind you, most of the things you see out there is curated and polished. Does this make you happier? I guess not. So, just put your phone away and go take some fresh air. Even if you just sit down and start staring out of the window will do you good. You will shift your focus to something else for a little while. This works, at least for me it really does.
- Do one thing at a time. I have been talking already about multitasking. It is not only not efficient, but in times of stress it makes you even more stressed. You have numerous things on your to-do list and when at the end of the day you see you couldn’t manage to finish even a couple of these you get upset and probably depressed. So, my advise, just go with the flow. I don’t mean stop doing anything at all. Try to pick one or two things for the day and go and complete these. This brings a lot of satisfaction.
You could try these few tips too.
- Start to practise yoga.
- Explore meditation.
- Have a good conversation with a close friend.
- Listen to good music.
- Practise gratitude. Start journaling and every day write let’s say 10 things you are grateful for in your life. This will learn you to see the things from another perspective. To see that your glass is half empty and not only half full.
- Smile at the good things in life. A good laugh with the people you love is healing. Clini Clowns who help hospitalised sick kids and elderly people with dementia say: “A little imagination does wonders.”
You see, what an impact has stress on your body, on your life. I thought before that it’s o.k. and it’s part of the game, I will get over it, I just have to be stronger and this sort of things. But you know, you have to love yourself and your body because you are the only person who accompanies you from the very beginning till the end, right?
So, how do you manage your stress, or do you manage it at all? What are your tips and tricks to go back to balance?