There are many ways that you can destress your life. I have compiled a list of 5 ideas that can help you really take a handle on the stress in your life. Constant stress - whether from work life or your personal life - can have real effects on the body. Stress has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including mood, sleep, and appetite issues - and even heart disease. Doctors don't know exactly how chronic stress affects the heart. Most likely, stress triggers inflammation, a known instigator of heart disease, however, this hasn't been proven. Stress may also influence heart disease in more subtle ways. For example, when stressed, many people often eat unhealthy food and don't have the energy or time to exercise. Stress can also lead us to other heart-damaging behaviours, such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol. The first thing that you should be doing before you are trying to reduce the stress in your life is identifying what your triggers are. After figuring out what exactly is working you up, you can create a list of your top triggers and then work on eliminating them if possible, or at least changing your reactions.
1) Reduce Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a chemical in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks that stimulates your central nervous system. Consuming too much may worsen anxiety. Overconsumption may also harm your sleep. In turn, this may increase stress and anxiety symptoms. People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back by replacing coffee or energy drinks with decaffeinated coffee, herbal tea, or water. Although coffee has health benefits in moderation, it’s recommended to keep caffeine intake under 400 mg daily, which equals 4–5 cups (0.9–1.2 L) of coffee. Still, people sensitive to caffeine may experience increased anxiety and stress after consuming less caffeine than this, so it’s important to consider your tolerance.
2) Meditation & More
Meditation can be a great way to relax, especially if you are under a lot of stress. Research has shown that meditation can be helpful in lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and even improving cognitive performance. And meditation is pretty simple to do: just find a comfortable place, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and focus on one thing, whether it's your breathing, an object (a flower, or a painting)—or even a picture in your mind—perhaps you are sitting on a beach in the Caribbean. You can do this for as little as 10 minutes to experience the benefits. The key is staying focused and not letting any distractions or thoughts enter your mind—being mindful is key. If you have a bit more time, take a Yoga or Tai Chi class—both incorporate meditation, along with physical movements. Green tea is very soothing—it contains theanine, an amino acid that gives flavor to green tea and also promotes relaxation. It is also thought that theanine is a caffeine antagonist, meaning it counters the stimulating effects of caffeine. So, drink green tea, and avoid caffeinated beverages, since caffeine can worsen the stress response. Journaling may help reduce stress and anxiety and provide a positive outlet for your thoughts and emotions. Expressive writing or therapeutic writing can benefit people managing chronic health conditions, including but not limited to mental health conditions like depression. Regular journaling may be linked to a higher quality of life, more proactive self-care behaviors, and other healthful behaviors, such as taking prescribed medications. You can also try a guided journal if you’d prefer more targeted, expressive writing.
3) Spend Time with Friends & Family
Social support from friends and family may help you get through stressful times and cope with stress. Having a social support system is important for your overall mental health. If you’re feeling alone and don’t have friends or family to depend on, social support groups may help. Consider joining a club or sports team or volunteering for a cause that’s important to you. We are hardwired for connection—especially in times of stress. Call a friend or family member for a distraction or to unwind after a stressful day.
4) Diet & Exercise
Exercise helps to boost endorphins and reduce stress—and research shows that 20 minutes each day is all that is needed to experience benefits. If you’re stressed, moving your body consistently may help reduce stress levels and improve mood. Regular exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. If you’re currently inactive, start with gentle activities such as walking or biking. Choosing an activity that you enjoy may help increase your chances of sticking to it in the long term. Walking is one of the finest exercises and a brilliant stress reliever. A good walk can put the world in perspective and soothe your frayed nerves. It’s the ideal way of taking a break from all of that work that built up during the holidays. Pay attention to all of the sights, sounds and smells. You might see the deep red color of the berries on the trees and bushes or perhaps the inky grayness of slushy ice and snow. See if it is possible to be open to all your senses: Smell the mustiness of the winter leaves; feel the rain on your head; the breeze on your face; watch how the patterns of light and shade shift unexpectedly. Your diet affects every aspect of your health, including your mental health. Being chronically stressed may lead you to overeat and reach for highly palatable foods, which may harm your overall health and mood. Not eating enough nutrient-dense whole foods may increase your risk of deficiencies in nutrients essential for regulating stress and mood, such as magnesium and B vitamins. Minimizing your intake of highly processed foods and beverages and eating more whole foods can help ensure your body is properly nourished. In turn, this may improve your resilience to stress.
At this time of year, exhaustion, stress, and unhappiness can easily dominate. You can start to experience “anhedonia” – that is, you can’t find pleasure in life. The things you used to enjoy now leave you cold – you feel as if a thick fog has put a barrier between you and simple pleasures, and few things seem rewarding anymore. You can counteract this by taking baby steps toward the things that you used to like doing but have since forgotten about. Be kind to your body. Have a hot bath; have a nap; treat yourself to your favorite food without feeling guilty; have your favorite hot drink. Do something you enjoy. Visit or phone a friend (particularly if you’ve been out of contact for a while), get together what you need so you can do your favorite hobby, get some exercise, bake a cake, read something that gives you pleasure, listen to some music that you have not listened to in a long while. People who engage in self-care typically have lower levels of stress and improved quality of life, while a lack of self-care is associated with a higher risk of stress and burnout. Taking time for yourself is essential to live a healthy life. This is especially important for people who tend to be highly stressed, including nurses, doctors, teachers, and caretakers. Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. It simply means tending to your well-being and happiness. Exposure to certain scents via candles or essential oils may be especially calming. Using scents to boost your mood is called aromatherapy. Aromatherapy can decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
Practical examples include:
taking a bath
reading a good book
preparing a healthy meal
stretching before bed
getting a massage
practicing a hobby
using a diffuser with calming scents