Accepting stress as part of life is only the first step in learning to manage it. Stress doesn’t affect us all the same way, so what works for your friend may not be effective for you. Thankfully, there are a lot of techniques for managing stress that bring benefits for physical and mental health. Let’s go over the most promising ones.
A good night’s sleep of 7–9 hours can help your body regenerate and be better at dealing with stress. If you don’t sleep enough, your body starts releasing more stress hormones called cortisol. Having high cortisol levels, especially chronically, can lead to a decrease in muscle tissue, increased blood sugar levels, anxiety, weight gain, fatigue, and other health problems.
However, stress may cause sleep disorders that can prevent you from having a proper shuteye. This is something you can deal with by keeping electronic devices away from your bathroom and using a sound machine. Also, going to therapy may help you not overthink things when you go to bed and stay awake for hours.
Everyone should do something that feels good at least once a day, hence hobbies. Dancing, painting, gardening, and other activities can help you relax and clear your head, a great way to deal with anxiety. Being exposed to stress creates additional anxiety that can lead to health issues, like digestive disorders, impaired immune system, heart disease, and diabetes.
A lot of hobbies are group activities that bring socialization and a much-needed change of scenery that can improve your mood and self-esteem. Keep in mind that if you don’t feel gratification with a chosen hobby, you can always try another one. After all, a hobby is responsibility-free and you decide what and when to do it.
Exercising is good for your body, making the muscles stronger, improving circulation, and keeping the joints in shape. It also has a positive effect on chemicals produced by the body, like hormones. Endorphins also called “runner’s high” are feel-good hormones produced during exercise that reduce pain and improve well-being.
Serotonin is a happiness hormone also released during physical activity that can improve sleep, mood, memory, digestion, and appetite. Dopamine is another hormone elevated with exercise that can decrease stress and enhance learning, motor functions, memory, as well as make you feel good. The good news is that you don’t have to lift weights whenever you are stressed, but a walk in the park can have equally beneficial effects.
Modern massage therapy is available since the 19th century, although Eastern cultures used it for thousands of years as natural healing. Massage combines touch, pressure, and movement that work wonders for muscle relaxation, leading to lower heart rate and better blood flow.
One of the best techniques to manage stress is the Japanese Shiatsu massage that brings emotional and physical calm. By alleviating muscle tension, you will be able to fall asleep more easily and take control of your anxiety. The type of massage depends on what makes you feel comfortable and sometimes all you may need is a foot rub to feel as good as new.
Science already proved that fragrances affect us on a physiological and psychological level. A 2016 study found that stimulating the sense of smell can affect mood, cognition, and social behavior. Aromatherapy in the form of incents, diffusers, and candles can help you to manage stress.
The same applies to body products, flowers, and other smells that you are exposed to every day. Let your nose help you to create a comfortable atmosphere for a spa day at home, pampering yourself with scented bath and skincare products. Not only will you relax your body, but also soothe your mind and improve your quality of sleep.
Although alternative medicine is more common in Asia, the world has become open to these methods in recent decades. Today, you can buy ashwagandha supplements in Australia, an ancient medicinal herb used in India and North Africa to relieve stress for centuries. You can have acupuncture treatments in the USA, a Chinese technique that can lower the levels of cortisol.
Alternative medicine is also something you can use in combination with traditional stress therapy. Of course, you should always consult with your doctor when introducing new or changing an existing treatment. But homeopathic, Ayurveda, and other alternative medicines may help you reconnect with yourself and manage stress more naturally.
Meditation includes various techniques that will slow down your heart rhythm and bring calm. The main goal is to focus on the present and not dwell on the past and future. You can use an existing mantra or develop your own that you will repeat while taking deep breaths.
Other meditation techniques have you concentrate on your surroundings through smells, touch, taste, sight, and hearing. In recent years, mindfulness has become an emerging trend in Western society as means to deal with stress. It involves accepting your feelings, thoughts, and sensations by making peace with and acknowledging your mental state.
Skipping meals and eating sweets is equally bad for you. The blood sugar levels are affected in both cases, leading to mood swings that can increase stress. While movies let you believe that eating family-sized ice cream will take the stress away, the relief is temporary and can lead to blood sugar crashes.
Instead, change your diet and start eating food that can help you fight off stress and its side effects. Moreover, make sure to eat regularly, even when you don’t have time since low blood sugar can make you more stressed out. Citrus fruits, like oranges, are great for snacks between meals, giving you energy and vitamins for the day.
Finding techniques for managing stress that will work for you is a journey of self-discovery and reflection. It will not only teach you how to control stress but also to accept the present and make positive changes in your life. Getting rid of things that add up to your cortisol levels is the beginning of learning to love and value yourself more.