Learn How to Reduce your Daily Stress
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. — William James
We all experience stress on some level. We’re all subject to the torment of emotions that ensues when we’re under a great deal of stress, especially when we’re striving towards achieving our goals in life. But what is stress really and what are some ways that stress can be reduced in your life?
Well, stress is the body’s physical response to a stressor in its environment. This can happen on the macro level and even on the micro level. We’re all familiar with the macro-level stressors in our lives. They involve fears, worries, and anxieties. They test our fight-or-flight response and take us to that emotional brink.
And, we stress about all sorts of things from our relationships, our finances, our friends, our families, our jobs, our health, and so on. Sometimes, it seems like our stress is a ceaseless series of occurrences that keep repeating themselves like the patterns in an endless ream of fabric. So, how do we break this cycle? How do we overcome our tendencies to stress to extremes?
Can I Really Reduce the Stress I Experience?
Yes, stress can be considerably reduced.
Now, some stress is necessary for us to function on a normal level. When we know we have an important meeting to present at work, we become stressed. That stress helps to induce action in us to ensure that we’re prepared for that important meeting.
Stress also interweaves the pain-and-pleasure paradigm in the mind that forces us to take different actions by eliciting varying emotions from the self-talk that goes on in our heads on a daily basis. We’ll do more to avoid pain than we will to gain pleasure, so stress is a byproduct of this thought process.
For example, when you know that your taxes are due the following week, even though you had been putting it off for months, the pain of not doing your taxes becomes greater than the pleasure of putting it off for another day. So, we do more to avoid pain than we do to gain pleasure and as a result, we hurriedly get to doing our taxes and ensuring we get them in on time. The stress of the situation calls us to action.
How Much Stress is Too Much Stress to Have?
Well, getting your taxes done on time, and the stress of not doing them is one thing. However, some people stress over much more than their taxes, and that stress is a daily unending ritual. But, the stress itself isn’t the worst part; it’s the physiological affects that the stress has on our bodies that can be debilitating.
When we stress, we release stress hormones into the body such as cortisol and epinephrine that help to regulate the bodies energy resources. When we’re stressed out and our body is releasing stress hormones, energy and resources move away from certain systems such as digestion, reproduction, and immunity, and they move toward the muscles, heart, and other vital organs. This is part of the body’s innate defense-mechanism in full swing and it’s at the heart of our fight-or-flight response.
But, how much stress is too much stress to have? Well, some stress is okay to have; it makes the world go round. It makes us do things that we might not necessarily always want to do, such as cramming for an exam the night before. But having too much stress over a prolonged period can have so many harmful effects on the body. It can do things such as:
- Slow down metabolic processes that affect digestion, which causes people that are constantly stressed out to gain more weight since their bodies’ digestive systems aren’t properly functioning. This, in turn, can also lead to things like ulcers and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
- Slow down reproductive processes that include a major decrease in testosterone for males and estrogen for females. This leads to things like irregular menstrual cycles in women and lower fertility in men.
- Slow down in the growth process, leading to hampered growth or recovery from illness. Since the presence of stress hormones also has a major effect on immunity, not only can growth be stifled, but also the recovery or prevention of any disease, common cold, flu, or other health-related issue.
So, What are Some Ways to Stop Stressing?
Well, there are several methods that you can employ in order to reduce your tendency to stress so much. These methods don’t take a significant amount of work, but rather, more of an awareness towards the situation and the mental self-talk going on in the mind. It’s usually that mental self-talk that helps us to create an enormous amount of stress in our lives.
The mind often has a way of carefully conceiving the worst possible scenario, and manifesting that into stress, which in turn causes physiological effects on the body. But there are some ways you can overcome your tendencies to stress and interrupt the patterns that we all become accustomed to.
Here’s how you can stress less and enjoy your life more…
#1 – Motion Interrupts Emotion
One of the best ways to reduce your level of stress is by creating some motion. Motion will interrupt emotion. And, when we’re stressed, our body has a way of telling us about that stress by putting us into a down and depressive state; the stress hormones will help to do that to us. But, when we create motion, we can interrupt the emotions. We can break the habit of constant stress by working the body.
This can be done by simply going for a 15-minute power walk around your block, doing 5 minutes of jumping jacks, or anything else to get your body moving. When you move your body, you break the pattern and the negative self-talk has a more difficult time of affecting you. Also, exercise stimulates the blood flow, providing oxygen to the brain and delivering nutrients to the body. It’s an excellent way to reduce and relieve stress.
#2 – Rest & Relaxation
Sometimes, just what we need to alleviate our stress is a little bit of rest and relaxation. If you can get away from the chaos that’s your life, try to do so for a day or two. Take some time for yourself. Go to your happy place, somewhere you love being more than anywhere else. Even if you can’t physically get away out of town, find a place nearby. Go on a “staycation” and recharge your batteries.
#3 – Cancel the Noise
A great deal of our stress stems from our desire to handle more things than we can at times. However, we don’t necessarily seem to notice this until it’s too late. If you have difficulty managing your time, interferences can be a huge source of stress. If you have a smartphone that’s constantly alerting you to work emails, or you’re frequently having to deal with problems that could be delegated to others, it may cause a huge amount of stress.
You have to cancel the noise. Turn off the television, wifi, cell phone, and all other distractions. Take some time to yourself to unwind and focus on what’s important. Make a list and prioritize what you need to focus on and realign yourself with what you truly desire. Sometimes, by taking a step back, we can see the bigger picture much clearer, and subsequently reduce the stress in our lives.
#4 – Music as a Muse
Sometimes, we all just need a little bit of music in our lives. Music can help reduce and alleviate your stress significantly. In fact, studies have shown that slow music such as classical music, can decrease blood pressure, reduce heart rates, and reduce the stress hormones in the body.
By listening to music, you can help to reduce your overall stress. And, music can be used to invoke certain emotions at certain times. If you have a playlist ready to go, you can easily select the song that will help you feel elated, energized, and a whole slew of other feelings.
#5 – Write like the Wind
Sometimes, it helps to write your thoughts out on paper. Our minds have a way of getting carried away on their own when left unchecked. But, by building awareness to the negative self-talk going on in the mind and writing out your thoughts and feelings, you can help to reduce stress.
How are you feeling? What in your life is stressing you out? Why is it stressing you out? See if you can look at your problems in a different light. Even if you’re going through a very difficult time right now, by finding the good in any situation you can help to reduce your stress and ensure that you push through those tough times. Writing can help you see all of that in front of you.
#6 – Stop and Breathe
An excellent stress reduction technique involves breathing exercises. An increased amount of breath equals an increased intake of oxygen, which is known to reduce cortisol levels. Furthermore, certain breathing exercises have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels. According to Dr. Weil, one excellent relaxation exercise with breathing involves the 4:7:8 method.
To implement the 4:7:8 method, bring your tongue to the upper ridge just behind your front teeth and hold it there. Breath in through your nose with a mental count to 4, hold your breath for a count to 7, then breath out through your mouth with a count to 8. When you breath out, you should make a “whooshing sound.” Repeat this cycle three additional times for a total of 4 cycles.
#7 – Laugh Until it Hurts
Laughing is an incredibly cathartic method for reducing stress and anxiety levels. Studies have shown that laughter not only reduces stress, but it also decreases memory loss, and increases the body’s immune system. And, laughing is simple and easy. All it takes is watching 20 or 30-minutes of comedy to get the laughter that you need.
#8 – Massage Therapy
Studies have shown that massages help to reduce stress and lower the body’s cortisol levels. Find a good massage therapist and treat yourself to a massage. Make sure that the masseuse knows what he or she is doing. The proper trained massage therapist can help to massage away the stress through proven methods that help to activate a part of the brain called the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, which is responsible for sensations of happiness and enjoyment.
#9 -Hugs & Kisses
Real human contact in a loving manner can help to not only reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels, but also to boost happiness levels by releasing endorphins in the brain. The happy endorphins can help to elevate mood and drown out depression. Find someone you can kiss or hug right now if you’re feeling stress.
Whether it’s a family member, a spouse, or a friend, ask them for a hug and tell them you’ve been really stressed out. And, make the hug last for more than 10 seconds. The longer you hug, the better you’ll feel. Try it today and watch your stress melt away.
#10 – Let the Creative Juices Flow
Whether you’re creative or not, embark upon an art project to help reduce cortisol levels and your overall amount of stress. It helps to activate certain parts of the brain that interrupt the flow of stress hormones in the body. It’s an excellent method for not only reducing your stress, but also for taking your mind off of things.