Stress or the physical or psychological response to tension and negative emotions like fear and anxiety can create a real problem. Stress can have severe consequences such as heart ailments, asthma, obesity, headache, depression, and anxiety. Other problems exacerbated by stress include GI problems, accelerated aging, and early death. Ways to beat stress and lead a healthy life are easier to follow, once you realize that health is the ultimate wealth. Prevention beats cure and this is why stress prevention is critical. Read the easy ways to live a stress-free life.
How to Beat Stress and Live Healthy Lives
#1 Create Checklists
The important point is to take things slowly and not become mentally taxed. Making mental checklists ensures that every task is taken one at a time, reducing stress from multiple pressures. Moreover, we feel motivated when we list our items to carry out and create sustained momentum.
#2 Be Your Own Support System
Don’t take things personally, if someone else is commenting or speaking about you in a certain way. Letting yourself feel in control, powerful and positive is a must. Comprehending what people do, say and think are manifestations of their reality. Everyone has their own opinion and you need to be clear about your attitude towards yourself.
#3 Don’t Fear Asking For Help When You Need It
A helping hand can lower the pressure and make it easier to talk about the problem, studying resources that can be obtained and locating solutions and alternatives. Develop a plan of action that works best and put it into play. Remember that the capacity to seek help when required is a sign of strength, not weakness. Having the confidence to have someone help you through a tough situation can lower stress levels.
#4 Meditation Relaxes You
Meditation lowers stress by releasing “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Mindfulness meditation, for instance, boosts the ability of the person to emotionally regulate the tension. Maintaining a healthy outlook through meditation tips can help. Positive visual imagery, guided meditations that are just the perfect way for creating the routine of meditating.
Deep breathing is another surefire way to lower stress hormone cortisol, lowering the heart rate, bringing down blood pressure and calming tense emotions.
Meditating while focusing your mind on breath control, an object, a phrase or word or mantra can prove really beneficial. Meditation alone or in a group can prove extremely beneficial.
#5 Exercise is Good For You
Get your heart rate up with aerobic exercises and cardiovascular activities such as swimming, cycling, and jogging. Just 20 minutes of activity in a day can calm the mind and lower stress levels. Exercise boosts feel-good endorphins in the brain that improve the mood. Moderate exercise and even light workouts offer great health benefits.
#6 Use Guided Imagery
Guided imagery has a deep relaxation impact through deep breathing. Keep your mind filled with positive thoughts and be relaxed. Ease slowly into the meditative state using guided imagery can make a positive impact using strong and powerful images.
#7 Patience is a Virtue
When you feel impatient and restless, try to remember that life is a marathon and what counts is lowering stress in the long run by embracing the now and the present. Rather than getting caught in past tangles or worrying about the future, focus on the present. Don’t compare yourself to others and always be positive in your approach towards life’s learning lessons. Cultivating a perspective that is open-ended can decrease anxiety and increase self-esteem.
#8 Therapy Can Work
Counseling is a positive way to emotionally deal with stress. Opt for a private and safe place without any lack of judgment. Clarity and insight are important. This can work out well if these characteristics are the key features of the therapy and counseling relationship.
#9 Have a Schedule in Place
Whether it’s making time for leisure, or waking up early in the morning, just in time for pampering and relaxing the inner self, having a schedule in place really reduces stressors. Waking up early after a regulated night’s sleep makes for the “healthy, wealthy and wise” state. Studies show that those who are able to wake up early in the morning cut down on disease and live a stress-free existence. Studying in the morning improves the power of concentration and leads to better outcomes. Sound sleep of at least 7 hours is a must.
#10 Yoga Calms The Inner You
Yoga is one of the top ways to cut down on stress and lead a healthy, peaceful life. The aim of yoga is enhancing strength, awareness, and harmony and strengthening the mind-body connection. Try Savasana, Sukhasana, and Marjaryasana which are just some of the relaxing poses known to have other health benefits as well. Pranayama is a form of yoga originating in ancient India and has deep breathing benefits for the best stress release.
#11 A Balanced Diet Beats Stress
Always opt for a balanced meal including green leafy veggies, eggs, fish, dairy items, bread, and pulses in your diet. Opt for nutrient-rich greens such as green beans, kale, collard, spinach, and broccoli. Legumes and lentils like beans and peas, fruits rather than sweet processed juice are just some of the benefits of opting for a fiber-rich diet to ward off stress. Be wary of emotional eating as this can pile on the pounds and increase stress levels too.
#12 Friends Matter
Friendships can lead to a longer lifespan, better emotional health, and less stress. No man is an island, and no matter where in the world you are, friends across the globe can help you to reach out and be sociable. The aim is to be able to release your stress in a healthy way through emotional support provided by your friends and those who care for you.
APA's Stress Management Tips
APA or American Psychological Association supports individuals in managing stress through these handy tips. Here are the strategies that can help you to lower your stress and manage your negative emotions effectively.
#1 Understand Stress
How do you generally react when you feel stressed? There are different ways to react to stress. But understanding what stress looks like and how it manifests in your individual case can help you to be better prepared for effective stress management.
#2 Identifying Sources of Stress
What can be the precipitating factors that aggravate stress? What are the causes you experience when undergoing stress? Whether it is work, change, family or other triggers and stressors, it is important to know what stresses you out. Once you know how to cope with the stressor, you can recognize stress signals and how these emanate.
#3 Understanding Stress Signals
One needs to process stress differently, so it is important to be aware of individual symptoms of stress. Check your inner alarm bells to know what works and what does not. Headaches, low tolerance, stomach pain or other accompanying symptoms can be effective indicators of your stress level.
#4 Recognize Stress Strategies
You need to have a go-to tactic or strategy for calming down. These are behaviors acquired over the years and are not always a healthy option for those who are not skilled at managing stress levels. For example, overeating or opting for self-medication with alcohol or smoking can be a real problem.
#5 Implement Health Strategies
It is important to be mindful of current healthy behaviors for coping, so one can switch to these for a healthier option. For overeaters, meditation or social interaction could be the way out for coping with excessive indulgence towards food and beverages. APA suggests making the switch between one behavior at a time is effective in fostering positive change.
#6 Making Self Care a Priority
When one makes time for themselves, putting your well-being before others are important. This holds true for effective self-management. After all, how can you help others, without helping yourself first? The simplest aspects of healthcare include adequate sleep, enough food, downtime, and exercise.
#7 Check For Support
If you are feeling troubled and seeking to reach out to friends or family members, social interaction and support could well be an effective way of lowering stress levels. One also learns new strategies and prevents burnouts.
Techniques for Managing Stress
Techniques for stress management are extremely helpful for tackling unexpected stressors. The stress management techniques can be further divided into these categories:
- Action Oriented
- Acceptance Oriented
Action-oriented approaches can help in taking the action for transforming a stressful situation. Emotion-oriented approaches are helpful in changing the way stressful situations are perceived. Finally, acceptance oriented approaches are adopted for dealing with stressful situations that cannot be controlled in any way.
#1 Action Oriented
Action-oriented approaches allow one to take action and change stressful situations. Here are the ways you can cope with stress effectively:
Focus on Clear and Assertive Communication
Clear, effective and assertive communication is the key to effective stress management. When one is assertive, one can have clarity on what is needed or wanted and explain what bothers the mind. Communicating firmly and fairly while building empathy for others is important. Once one can identify what needs to be communicated, and work proactively to change the stressful situation.
Lower the Noise
Switching off from technologies and constant stimuli every minute is an important way to slow down cognitive overload. Recharging is the most effective way to tackle stress. Study the to-do list and work towards not overbalancing the system.
Manage Time Effectively
Our days can be extremely lengthy and getting busy over the months, means prioritizing and organizing tasks to create a more enjoyable, less stressful life. For every internal rule we create for ourselves, we can manage the behaviors accordingly. Healthy boundaries are critical for a life free from stress. With healthy boundaries, we respect ourselves and take care of well-being by expressing boundaries to others.
Stay Out of the Head
Sometimes, it is critical not to compete with racing thoughts. Take a break and distract yourself, by watching a movie, catching up with friends or taking positive actions to take your mind off things.
Emotion-oriented approaches change the way stressful situations are perceived. The greatest weapon against stress is the ability to choose a particular thought over another. Let's learn more about emotion-oriented approaches to stress management:
Affirmations and Imagery
The value of positive imagery and affirmations are now proven scientifically to raise positive emotions. When the brain thinks of a positive experience, it perceives good emotions associated with it, which change the way one sees and experiences the world.
It was in the mid-50s that psychologist Albert Ellis discovered cognitive restructuring. This is a technique for comprehending negative emotions and challenging incorrect beliefs causing them. Cognitive restructuring is a key aspect of CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Another contribution by REBT psychologist Albert Ellis later adapted by Martin Seligman was the ABC technique. ABC stands for adversity, beliefs, and consequences. Adversity is a stressful event while beliefs are the way one responds to the event. The consequence or the result of the beliefs lead to outcomes and actions of the event. The more optimistic the beliefs are, the more positive is the outcome.
Acceptance oriented approaches are useful in stressful cases which cannot be controlled. The focus should be on taking the right view, rather than getting disturbed. Here are the acceptance oriented approaches that can prove really beneficial:
Exercise and Diet
One may have heard it before, but one is what one eats. It is important to have a healthy and balanced diet. Making simple diet changes, such as reducing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar intake is a well-known way to lower anxiety. Getting moving is guaranteed to reduce stress. It is as effective as antidepressants in relieving mild symptoms of depression.
Physical Relaxation and Meditation
Using techniques such as guided visualization, deep breathing, yoga or guided body imagery scan serve to relax the body.
Resilience is the key to bounce back from stressful or negative experiences. For simplification, resilient persons accept the situation has occurred, learning from what transpired and then move on.
Talk It Through
Don't block what is inside. Talk to someone close about your worries or what's getting you down. Sharing worries are tantamount to halving them. Most of the worries sound less worrisome when they are said out loud. Writing down your emotions or thoughts is also a great way to release them or engage independent professionals. There are many kinds of free services available for counseling and therapy such as support rooms.
How to Ward off Stress?
Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol
Avoiding or reducing the consumption of nicotine and other drinks rich in caffeine and alcohol are important. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants so the focus is on increasing stress as opposed to reducing it. Alcohol is a depressant when absorbed in large quantities. It acts as a stimulant in smaller quantities. Using alcohol as a means of warding off stress is, therefore, ineffective. Swapping caffeinated or alcoholic drinks for herbal teas, water or natural and diluted fruit juices is essential. So is keeping oneself hydrated to cope better with the stress. One should also avoid or reduce intake of refined sugars contained in manufactured foods as this cause energy crashes leading to tiredness and fatigue as well as irritability. Aim for a healthy, well-balanced diet for the best outcomes.
Engage in Physical Activity
Stressful situations raise the level of stress inducing hormone like cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These are fight or flight hormones that have been hardwired by evolution into the brains and that are designed to protect us from bodily harm when one is under threat. Stress in the modern age is not a function of the flight or fight response. Physical exercise is perfect as a complement to metabolize the excessive cortisol/adrenaline hormone and bring back the body as well as the mind into calmer, relaxed states.
While feeling stressed and tense, go for brisk walks in fresh air. Incorporate physical activity into the daily routine on an everyday basis, right before or after work or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity also improves the quality of sleep.
Don't Miss Out on A Good Night's Rest
Lack of sleep or insomnia is a massive cause of stress. Stress interrupts thoughts and makes sleep difficult. Rather than opting for medicines, the aim should be to maximize relaxation before resting. Your bedroom needs to be free of stressors. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as this can lead to disturbed sleep. Don't do any mentally challenging or demanding work several hours before going to bed. This will give your brain a chance to calm down. Take on a warm bath or read an interesting book to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you to overcome fears about what worries you. Aim to go to bed at about the same time every day so mind as well as body are used to predictable and regular bedtime routine.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Every day, the aim should be to relax with a positive experience through active use of stress reduction techniques. There are many tried and tested ways to lower stress. See what works best for you. For example, the healing power of affirmations is well known. If one finds the tension in the body, work on reminding yourself to relax. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and enhanced with practice.
Communicate with Someone
Just talking to a person can make an individual feel supported and helped. Talking can work by offering a distraction from stressful thoughts or releasing in-built tension. Stress can harm your sense of judgment and prevent you from seeing facts clearly. Talking things through with friends, trained professionals or work colleagues can help to find solutions and also see problems from a fresh perspective.
Keep a Diary and Record Stressors
Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective tool for stress management, as it helps individuals to become aware of situations which cause stress. Noting down the duration and intensity of the stressful episode and according to a rating helps in understanding what triggers stress and how effective one is at coping with stressful situations. This enables better coping mechanisms.
Take Full Control
Stress can be triggered by a problem that may seem impossible to solve on the surface. Learning to find solutions to problems can help in initiating a greater sense of control and lowering stress levels. A problem-solving method involves noting down the problem and coming up or suggesting solutions. Decide on bad and good points of each and select the best and optimal solution. Write down each step which is part of the solution.
Manage Your Time
At times, one can feel overburdened by the to-do list. This is a common stressor. Accept that you cannot do everything at one go and prioritize as well as organize your task. Keep a list of all the things you do and list them as per genuine priority. Note the tasks that need to be done personally and what needs to be delegated to others. Record the tasks to be done within a certain time frame. By editing an overwhelming and unmanageable task, it can be broken down into tasks over a longer time frame. Some tasks are removed from the list through delegation. Creating buffer times to deal with emergency and unexpected tasks is important.
Know Your Limits
A common reason for stress is too much to do in too little time. Many people, however, take on additional responsibilities they cannot afford to solve. Learning to say no to unimportant requests or additional queries helps to reduce stress levels and develop greater self-confidence. To say no, you need to understand yourself better. Watch out for the social desirability concerns or fear of rejection that may stop you from saying no. Respond with pre-planned phrases to let others down gently.
See The Problem In Its Proper Perspective
Feeling stressed out is a natural reaction, no matter what the magnitude and intensity of the stressful event are. But try to take a step back and ask if the issue will matter in a year or more. If the answer to this is negative, make a move. Keeping things in perspective makes a difference to your stress levels.
List Solutions and Come Up With Plans
If there is a specific problem you need to take care of, list all possible solutions and choose the best one. Realizing that there are options and you can come up with a concrete plan to directly impact stress reduction ensures the problem will become more manageable.
Accept What Is Beyond Your Control
Some circumstances or situations may not even be in one's control. One has to learn how to cope and accept them. Control over how you react to stress is in your own hands, though. Staying calm and willing to accept emotional support from others helps in managing stress.
Recharge and Give Yourself a Break
Daily or everyday stressors can come up and destroy your peace of mind. So work on at least one relaxing or positive experience for yourself in a day. Listen to music, meditate, write in a journal or enjoy a soothing bath, for these are all great ways to relax and lower the stress. Meditation permits us to clear the mind and see things more realistically.
If something is bothering you, you don't need to keep it to yourself. Talk to individuals you trust, like coworkers, friends or family. Even if you are not looking for specific advice, it is great to get feelings out into the open.
Set Reasonable Limits and Expectations
Being busy is natural. But taking on more than you can handle causes unwelcome, unwanted stress. Learn how to stay no to activities at your child's school or take extra projects at work. Additionally, don't spend time on more financial responsibilities if these are going to be a stretch.
Resolve Issues Quickly
Before a situation has a chance to develop into a crisis, it is important to tackle it. If you are concerned about a brewing situation, whether at home or work, address it to make it easier to solve and less stressful. Problems can be easily handled before they become a calamity. While everyone feels stress, it is important to keep it under control by keeping problems in perspective.
Relax Your Muscles
When stress and tension rule, your muscles get tense. Loosen them and fresh your body by stretching, taking a hot bath, getting rest or enjoying a relaxing massage. Taking a few deep breaths can also take the pressure off you. Sit in a comfortable posture or lie down. Closing your eyes, imagine yourself in a relaxing place. Slowly take in and take out deep breaths. Carry this out for 5-10 minutes at a time.
Slow Down & Take A Break
Modern life is so busy that we need to slow down and chill out. Study your life and find small ways to do this. For example, set your watch 5-10 minutes ahead to get to places a little earlier and avoid the stress of arriving late. Take real downtime to give your mind time off from stress. If you are a person seeking to set goals, this can be hard at first. But adhere to it and you'll be able to carry out restful activities. This includes yoga, tai chi, meditation, prayer, listening to songs or spending time in nature.
You also need to set time aside for what you enjoy. Try to do something that makes you feel good and relieves stress. If something is bothering you, talk about it and lower stress. Talk to family members, friends, trusted clergy, doctors or therapists. You can even engage in positive self-talk. But do remember that not everything is in your control. So, accept what you can change and what you cannot.
Study which of the stressors are impacting you the most and what their triggers are. If you can identify what these are, you can eliminate them or reduce them in intensity. From keeping stress journals to observing your own triggers, there are many ways to deal with the problem.
In anybody’s work or home environment, stress is inevitable because we all live by deadlines and targets, some formal and others informal. But the trick is to manage time, resources and skills in an optimal fashion and lead to stress-free lives that are positive and enjoyable. Choose to lower stress using these important pointers and breathe out the tension using meditation and pranayama. Choose yoga to tone the body and balance the mind. Use a good diet and good night’s sleep to ward off stressors in a massive way. Opt for organizational skills and sociability to see you through the stress and tension of everyday life.