Reset Your Stress Levels
Stress is a normal part of everyone’s life. It’s the result of a natural process, classically referred to as a fight or flight response, where your body decides to stay and fight impending danger or run from it. When you’re put in a stressful situation, your heart rate and blood flow increase, getting your body ready to deal with a current crisis. Your body is suddenly energized and better equipped to complete the task that is being asked of it. In this way, occasional stress can be good.
When your body is constantly being assailed with demands—mental, physical or emotional—chronic stress begins to take hold. Chronic stress can weaken your immune system, cause arrhythmia or irregular heart rate, chest pain and even heart attack and stroke. It can worsen conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma or gastrointestinal problems. Chronic stress can also lead to depression and anxiety, alcohol and tobacco use, poor eating habits and trouble sleeping.
Methods for resetting your stress levels
- Exercise. Not only does exercise burn calories, fat and improve muscle tone—it triggers the release of chemicals that counter the effects of stress.
- Eat a balanced diet and don’t skip meals. Every day, try to eat at least six small meals, rather than three large meals, and include options from all of the food groups—vegetables especially. Nutrient-rich foods help regulate your mood and overall health, ultimately helping control your appetite and weight.
- Get quality sleep. Losing sleep, especially when you’re already stressed, can actually worsen your stress levels. Getting good, quality rest on a regular basis helps your brain reset itself and process all the information it gathers each day.
- Relax. In times of extreme stress and anxiety, this is easier said than done. But to pull yourself out of a funk, you have to be able to relax. Relaxation helps produce some of the same stress-countering chemicals as exercise, so try to focus on activities that make you feel calm.
- Snack on whole grains and high-fiber foods. You probably know the term “comfort food”—usually high-fat, processed foods that are easily accessible, and very unhealthy. Instead of turning to sweets and fats, try eating foods high in fiber and low in sugar. Keeping your blood sugar and digestion regulated by seeking high-nutrient foods will make you feel better.
- Avoid stimulants. While cigarettes, caffeine and alcohol can offer temporary stress-relieving effects, they actually cause a rise in stress hormone levels, a drop in blood sugar and an unnatural increase in appetite.
- Take vitamins. Stress depletes vital nutrients needed to balance the effects of stress hormones. By taking vitamins or supplements, you’re helping your body get what it needs to combat stress and ultimately feel better.
Other quick tips for stress relief
- Just breathe—deep breathing eases symptoms of stress instantly.
- Meditate—mental visualization helps calm your nerves.
- Write—put your worries on paper as a way of releasing stress.
- Take a walk—getting up and moving forces you to breathe more deeply, and improves circulation.
- Listen to calming music—it can slow your heart rate and increase endorphins.
- Phone a friend—sometimes talking about your problems helps you gain perspective.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life—but you don’t have to let it get the best of you. Keep all of these methods in mind the next time you feel overwhelmed.