Stress is a natural part of our lives. After all, if we were completely free from stress we’d never get anything done. But it seems like the opposite is true and we’re stressed all the time. Modern life can leave us feeling so stressed we get anxious, depleted, irritable, and depressed – so much so that that becomes the norm. Luckily, I’ve pulled my favorite stress management tips to help you stay sane in your day-to-day life.
What is stress?
Our bodies have a system of stress and relaxation to keep us alive. They are the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is our “fight or flight” response. In times of stress, our bodies get hyper-aware releasing hormones that get us ready to handle threats and fight a predator, run away, or in some cases freeze and play dead. But your boss at work is not a predator and as much as you may want to run away from your kids they’re crying because they need you.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” response. It’s how our body relaxes after stress and helps ensure proper digestion. Chronic stress can keep us in “fight or flight” mode and which means a build-up of stress hormones in the body. This can also overwork your heart and other organs affected by these hormones.
What are the effects of chronic stress?
We are not meant to be in a constant state of stress. But with the constant dinging of notifications, overwhelm of social issues, and personal pressures can build up to us living in a state of constant stress. The symptoms of chronic stress are:
- Aches and pains
- Insomnia or sleepiness
- A change in social behavior, such as staying in often
- Low energy
- Unfocused or cloudy thinking
- Change in appetite
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Change in emotional responses to others
- Emotional withdrawal
Not to mention, when we’re stressed we can often search for things to make us “feel better” like fatty foods, stimulants, or alcohol. This can end up putting more stress on our bodies. Sometimes the reason we can feel so stressed is because of our diet, hydration levels, or gut health. But don’t get more stressed out about stress. I have a few tips that can help.
My Top 10 Stress Management Tips
Be present in every moment
Our culture pressures us to be instantly available. Texts, calls, and emails make it all too easy to pull our focus. My advice is to answer that email or respond to that text later. They can wait and honestly, your response will be better if you take some time. I also recommend having clear boundaries between work and home. Draw a line between work and home. It can be hard with working from home, but it ensures everyone gets the best of you by having your full attention.
One of the easiest ways to be present is to fully accept a task instead of mentally fighting against it. This can decrease stress and help bring you inner peace. We spend so much time at war with ourselves. Instead, cultivate a greater awareness of what you want to do. The easiest way to do that is to focus on one task at a time. This helps you not only complete tasks more efficiently, but also helps you not overtax your brain and body trying to do everything. Plus, don’t forget to celebrate everything you do. The sense of accomplishment can help refill your gas tank.
Cherish your mornings and nights
What is the first thing you do in the morning, and the last thing you do at night? For many people, it’s checking their social media or texts. Your morning sets the tone for the entire day so make it count. Try waking up 30 minutes earlier to do things that charge your batteries. It also lets you move at your own pace.
Try a 10-minute meditation, a 30-minute stroll, or lighting a candle and answering a journal prompt first thing in the morning. You will feel so much more grounded, at peace, and ready for the challenges ahead. Just like the importance of mornings, nighttime rituals can summarize your day so end it in a good headspace. Try a wind-down yoga practice, read a good book, or reflect on what you’re grateful for. This helps ensure a restful sleep.
Declutter your living space
Have you heard of feng shui? It’s a practice all about how the energy of our living space can affect us. You can read all about it here. In short, look around at your space – if you don’t love something and it isn’t useful, sell it or give it to a charity. Simple as that. Clutter can just give us stress that we get used to. But it’s so much easier to live life when things are where we want them to be. Make your space a place that you love and feel happy in and declutter, declutter, declutter!
Exercise is key when it comes to mental health and less stress. As I mentioned, stress hormones can build up in our bodies. Movement increases blood flow and the release of feel-good endorphins. Plus, medically exercise can help ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
My biggest tip here is to find a form of exercise that you love, that you look forward to, and that doesn’t feel like a chore. Whether it’s a barre-class, a run, a 10-minute HIIT workout, or a long walk you will feel much more clarity and it is the perfect natural stress reliever. I have personally been loving the rebounder for a full-body workout. I explain all the benefits of a rebounder in a recent blog post.
Writing down your thoughts can be an extremely effective way to reduce stress and support healing. Put pen to paper and just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t pressure yourself. Just write your stream of consciousness and let the words flow. Just getting all your thoughts out there gets them out of your head. It doesn’t need to be organized or categorized, this is your chance to let it out. If you’re not sure where to start, grab a notebook and write a list of things in your life that you’re grateful for.
Simplify your to-do-list
To-do lists never end so don’t waste valuable mental space stressing about crossing every little thing off your list. Instead, make a realistic to-do list every day. I think it’s helpful to start with the most urgent, sometimes time-consuming items, then add the work that is long-term or lower priority. That gives you a nice boost at the start of your day that builds momentum and can carry over to more monotonous tasks.
Really look at your list. Is it possible to do all those things today? If not, trim it down, then as you go through your day, check off or highlight the tasks as you complete them. The sense of accomplishment can help motivate us.
Breathe consciously throughout the day
Observing your breath is a great way to induce calm and rid yourself of anxiety. I recommend periodically practicing conscious breathing throughout your workday. This will anchor you in the present moment. The 4-4-4 breathing method is a great one. Whenever you find yourself getting stressed, take a few moments to just breathe naturally and focus on those breaths, letting worries and anxieties diffuse and drift away.
Deep breathing can get you out of “fight or flight” and help you get control back from your nervousness.
Feed Your Brain
Food has an enormous impact on our mental health. Certain foods can exacerbate anxiety and depression, while other foods can help us feel grounded, calm, and centered. I recommend staying away from sugar, processed foods, and gluten. They are a few of the most triggering foods for brain fog, inflammation in the brain, and can keep your body in a state of craving.
Everything you eat will either feed stress or feed health, so choose the latter and replenish your brain with the nutrients it needs for optimal functions. Try brain-friendly foods like blueberries, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil!
Your body needs to rest. If not, it will be stressed about needing rest. Optimal sleep for most people is around seven hours per night, but it varies for every person. One of the major nuggets I’ve learned about sleep from my time working with sleep doctors is that consistency is key! Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. There are also plant-based sleep aids I recommend to everyone to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Did you know that you can actually reverse negative and stressful thoughts just by reading, watching, or listening to positive things? For example, classical or meditation music, a happy podcast, or a self-help book are all effective paths to quieting the mind of negative thoughts. Become more positive!
I highly recommend looking into the power of crystals to assist you on this journey. One of my favorite crystals to help stay positive and dispel negative energy is the Rainbow Fluorite Heart. Any consistent practice can help rewire our brains. So if you make positivity a habit, your brain will adapt.
These simple stress management tips, if practiced regularly, can make such a big difference in your life. Wake up and feel a sense of calm like never before, and carry it on throughout the day. All you have to do is commit to living your best stress-free life and show up for yourself with a sense of positivity and a focus on feeling good and living well.