At some point, everyone experiences some level of stress – it’s normal. Not all stress is negative. However, prolonged periods of stress can lead to serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease and obesity.
By definition, stress is the reaction to a situation in which a person feels threatened or anxious. While stress is inevitable, there are many ways to help negate its effects and keep stress levels under control (yay). Here are 10 ways to help you quickly and proactively stop stress before it starts.
1) Go for a walk. Going on a walk can lower your perception of stress. Walking (or any type of physical exercise) endorphins. Endorphins are mood-boosting hormones that create a runners high and euphoric feeling you get after a rigorous exercise routine. Walking can also put individuals in a meditative state.
2) Deep breathing. Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is the process of contracting the diaphragm; the key to knowing you are doing it correctly is the observance of your lungs and chest filling completely to the point that your belly area expands. Deep breathing may calm you, reduce blood pressure levels, and decrease stress.
3) Step away. One key strategy of stress management is to get away. It sounds obvious, but sometimes the quickest way to de-stress is to walk away from a stressful situation to regroup and collect your thoughts.
4) Listen to some relaxing tunes. Research studies have confirmed that music is able to change the mood of the listener. Music has the ability to excite but also to relax. Music with stringed instruments, drums, wind instruments as well as sounds of rain or nature sounds are the most effective at relaxing listeners.
5) Meditate or pray. Stress initiates the fight or flight response. Meditation may help structurally transform the brain and change its response to stress. Meditation also helps to increase mental strength and focus.
6) Read. Reading is a great way to relax. It has been shown as little as 10 minutes of reading can be enough to decrease stress levels by more than 68 percent. Not only can reading reduce stress levels, it can also help improve your memory and slow down mental decline.
7) Stretch. Stretching improves elasticity and mobility of your muscles, which allows for relaxed movement and less tension. Stretching stimulates receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones.
8) Go outdoors and enjoy nature. The journal of Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine published data from a study that compared participants that walked in nature and those that walked in a city environment. The participants that walked in nature had lower blood pressure and cortisol, a hormone that is associated with stress.
9) Hug. Hugging is a great way to signal the body to let go of stress. Scientific data has revealed that the hormone oxytocin is released when people hug. Oxytocin can illicit anti-stress effects like the lowering of blood pressure and cortisol levels. Oxytocin is also able to increase mood-altering hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which is thought to cause the warm and cozy feeling you get when you get a hug. Try hugging someone the next time you feel stressed!
10) Laugh away your stress. The old saying states that laughter is the best medicine. Research shows that laughter has the ability to reduce stress hormones by as much as 70 percent. Even the anticipation of laughter has been shown to reduce stress.
The month of May is designated as Mental Health Month. How about let’s all make a commitment to support our mental health by making a conscious effort to stop stress before it starts. What other strategies work for you to combat stress?