Stress is a part of life for most of us. It can be both a blessing and a burden. Stress can be great for meeting deadlines and reacting to situations with both focus and clarity. Then again, if not dealt with properly, stress can be harmful to our physical and mental health. Stress can wreak havoc in so many ways and in all areas of our lives, so it’s important to know there are great ways to help us overcome stress and its harmful effects. Below I’ve put together a list of my 7 favorite ways to combat stress!stry.
This one is first on my list because I believe it is truly a significant asset in dealing with stress. I’ve come to discover just how important meditation is, and I actually notice when I miss a day! I don’t feel quite as clear or calm, and I definitely don’t handle intense, stressful situations as well. There are many different meditation techniques and it’s best to do whichever fits well with you. I really enjoy loving-kindness meditation, watching the breath or sending loving feelings to someone. Looking for a place to start? The app, Insight Timer, is chock full of guided meditations and resources with a very supportive community.
2. Changing perspective.
Imagine for a moment that you are a vast sky. You are bright and blue, but there are some clouds floating through you. Imagine your stresses and worries as those clouds. Simply be an observer of the clouds, watching them pass by without attaching to them.
I find this to be a wonderful process for changing my perspective, knowing I can just be an observer instead of creating such intense attachments to stressors.
3. Do something you love.
This is a big one for me. Getting out of your head and doing something you truly enjoy is a great way to de-stress and let go. Letting go is a big part of this process. In order to enjoy doing something you love, it’s important to make a mental decision and let go of the stress holding you back. Doing what we love is part of our nature, it’s who we are and it’s what makes this life so extraordinary.
A few of my favorite things are: giving my dog some love, making someone else feel good, deep breathing, enjoying the wind blowing through the trees, taking a hot lavender bath, reading a great book, working out, writing it out, reflecting on life and the joy it brings, and mindfully enjoying a coffee. These are just a few of my favorite things; figure out yours!
4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sweets & fast food.
When we are stressed, our body has to work extra hard to try and repair itself. Certain triggers can really add to the stress. Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant, which means it speeds up your entire nervous system. I thrive on caffeine, but not when I’m stressed, and I definitely avoid relying on a coffee everyday. With a lot of things, the less you have of something, the more you enjoy it when you do have it. Caffeine can increase overall stress levels and add to anxiety by over-activating our fight-or-flight system.
Alcohol is a depressant and when you’re stressed it can be tempting to go for that glass of wine or cocktail. It may help for awhile, but in the long run your body starts to rely on that release, making it harder for your emotional and mental health to bounce back from stress on its own. Alcohol can also really disrupt our sleep. Although alcohol may help with falling asleep quicker, it results in disrupted, restless sleep. This in turn may result in you going for that coffee the next morning; it’s all a vicious cycle that must be stopped in its tracks.
Next are sweets. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes resort to having something sweet after a really stressful day. Now that I’m aware of it, I’m working to change it. The problem with having sweets when you’re stressed is that our immune systems aren’t as strong as when we’re relaxed. Sugar itself is very evil to our immune systems and excess sugar reduces our body’s natural defenses by up to 75%! This is tried and true data.
Lastly, processed, fast, cheap food is yet another stressor for your body as most fast food causes inflammation, which is what stress is already doing to you. The best food to eat is food you make yourself because this food can be quick, easy, and healthy. Something as simple as grilled chicken, vegetables and, if you’re looking for some carbs, maybe some lovely jasmine rice or even quinoa.
5. Be present & mindful.
We’ve all heard this one before but it really does work! To me being present is seeing and experiencing the fullness of each moment. This is definitely hard to do consistently, but it can be done. Mindfulness goes a little deeper. Mindfulness is really feeling all your emotions, thoughts, body sensations and environment and not trying to change any of it. It’s acceptance of whatever happens in each moment. It’s a focused, practiced feeling. When I’m present, I’m seeing the world fully with all it has to offer. I’m listening intently when others talk to me. I’m connecting with others without thinking of other things at the same time. I’m focusing on the good and shutting the door on the bad.
So how does being present and mindful help with stress? It allows you to get outside of your head a little, and fully engage, feeling fully alive, instead of focusing on the stressors in your life. When you are present there is a certain stillness that takes place inside, it is centeredness, which is truly valuable.
This one we’ve all heard as well, but I wouldn’t say it unless I truly believed in it. Gratitude turns what we have into enough. If you really get down to it and fully experience the joy that gratitude can offer, your stress will go down and your happiness will go up. You can’t feel stressed and grateful at the same time. A gratitude journal is a great place to start. For me, the sweet spot is writing down 7 things I’m grateful for. These things will range from my amazing boyfriend, my job, my dog Charlie, my car, a good meal, a great coffee, the opportunity to grow within a company, a sunset, a relaxing drive, flowers, or even a lotion that ignites my senses.
7. Tomorrow is a new day.
Many of us experience stress on a regular basis, but the great thing about life is that tomorrow is a new day. It’s another chance for us to be better versions of ourselves and another opportunity to change the way we react to stress. By letting go of past stresses and looking forward, instead of behind, we can all live a little happier, be a little stronger and feel a little calmer.
The views expressed in this entry are strictly my opinion and do not reflect the views of Wishing U Well. Any decision to use supplements to support your specific needs should be considered in partnership with your healthcare professional.