Stress is an invisible and pervasive problem that affects everyone. It’s a killer, leading to heart disease, depression, and other health problems. And it can sap your creativity, productivity, and enthusiasm for life.
Stress is just one of those things we all have to deal with in some way or another. But how you deal with stress makes all the difference in the world: Some people turn to alcohol or drugs; others learn meditation techniques; still others change their lifestyle habits like their diet and exercise routine.
The key is finding what works best for you so that when life starts getting hectic (and it will), you know exactly what steps to take—before stress turns into a debilitating condition that wreaks havoc on your mind and body.
Here are things you can do to minimize the effects of stress on your body and mind:
Learn about the three different types of stress
There are three main types of stress: emotional, environmental, and physical. Each one requires a different approach to dissolve the tension that comes from these sources.
Put things in perspective and permit yourself to say no
Some people think that if they say no, they will end up missing out on something important. That is simply not true. Learning to put things in perspective and be aware of how much your time is worth can really help you avoid getting stressed by not being able to do everything others expect from you.
Change unhealthy behavior by substituting good habits for unhealthy ones
Getting in the habit of doing something healthy can be a great relief from stress. For example, instead of feeling stressed out when you have to meet an important deadline, tell yourself you will go for a run afterward. Getting your mind off stressful thoughts and onto something else will give you peace of mind.
Find a trusted friend with whom you can discuss your problems and how they make you feel; this is known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
When you are stressed, it’s easy to let emotions take over your thoughts, leading to irrational behavior. Talking about the real source of stress with someone close can keep your mind on track and help you find practical solutions.
Use deep breathing techniques and meditation
Your breath is like a switch that can turn off your parasympathetic nervous system (which causes stress) and turn on your body’s natural relaxant. Try this simple breathing technique: Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of five, hold for one or two seconds, and then breathe out slowly through your mouth to the count of five. Repeat two more times.
People who meditate regularly report lower stress levels than those who don’t. Studies show that meditation can actually change your brain waves to produce a relaxation response.
Try Massage and Aromatherapy
You can book a massage therapist for a couple of hours. Make sure to tell the therapist if there are any areas where you are particularly tense or sore. It might hurt a little, but it should help release the tension your muscles are holding on to.
You can also try using aromatherapy or oil diffusers. You can simply put a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the diffuser and plug it in the wall.
Exercise for at least half an hour each day
It’s hard to feel stressed out when you’re tired, so make sure you exercise regularly. You don’t have to run ten miles every day—even gentle workouts like yoga or walking can significantly reduce stress. Make time for fun activities that allow you to forget about your worries and recharge your batteries.
Seek out new activities that provide a diversion from stressful thoughts and feelings
Make time for fun every day. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, take the time to enjoy life.
Get enough sleep by going to bed at your regular hour, no later than one hour before midnight. Your body needs rest to repair itself from all the stress it’s under. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be more likely to feel stressed out.
One of the best ways to deal with stress is to just let it go. Sometimes people are told that letting your stress buildup can harm your health, but this isn’t entirely true. Stress itself won’t physically hurt you or make you sick; It’s the way people deal with it that causes health problems.
Minimize your exposure to stressful stimuli
Instead of feeling stressed by everything you read and hear, ask yourself what’s important and what’s not. Stay informed about the issues that really matter to you, but don’t waste time worrying about things that can’t be changed or may never happen. And if someone is trying to ruin your day with negative news from far away, turn off the TV or change the station!
Stress isn’t always bad; in fact, it’s an integral part of life. If you feel like you’re being overwhelmed by stress or if it’s starting to affect your performance or health, talk with someone you trust about how they deal with stress. It will help you realize that there are healthy ways of coping with it.