Stress. It affects us all. Those emerging deadlines, never ending to-do lists, sick loved ones, financial issues can contribute to stressful lives.
Chronic stress can impact mental and physical wellbeing in a negative fashion, but luckily there are ways to counter emotional stress we unavoidably face. While most people know to use relaxation techniques, such as meditation or breathing exercises when faced with stressful situations, there are other ways to destress. Each person may click with a different tool when it comes to destressing – there is no one-size-fits-all. Therefore, it is beneficial to try different modalities to see what works best. For some, a physical outlet may be preferred, while others may want to engage in something more introspective. There is no wrong way – whatever works, works. Finding a tool or technique that is true to you is going to be the thing that works best. For. You.
Here are three techniques to try when attempting to destress:
Movement: Physical activity can help relieve stress. Ever feel calmer after a walk? Have you noticed how a problem suddenly has a solution after a long hike? Movement relieves muscle tension and facilitates deep breathing, both useful to decreasing stress. Movement also releases endorphins -the happy neurotransmitters- which aid in stress relief. The type or length of movement does not matter. Anything you enjoy doing can aid in stress reduction. Whether it is a 10-minute dance sesh while dinner is cooking, or a 10k run early in the morning, the mere fact that you are moving can help crush stress.
Shift Viewpoint: You may not be able to change what is going on in the world, but you can change how you react to a situation. Yes, traffic will exist, but you get to decide whether you see it as a burden to your daily commute or an opportunity to catch up on podcasts while sipping your morning coffee. Your reaction to a situation is what causes stress to build up – not the situation itself. Shifting your viewpoint is a practice that takes time. When in the middle of a last-minute work deadline, instead of panicking and focusing on everything that can go wrong, you can slowly morph that mindset into something more positive (I have always completed work deadlines on time, the project is more than halfway done, I work with a great team, etc), then the stressful situation can begin to shape itself differently. Suddenly, the task doesn’t seem so daunting, and hey it may even seem enjoyable.
Food Matters: This is more of a long-term change because there is no magical food that will immediately calm down stress (if there is let me know!). However, there are foods that slowly and gradually work with the body to elicit calm. For example, tryptophan found in turkey, almonds, and even eggs, is an amino acid the body converts into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that impacts emotions. Vitamin-C rich foods, such as citrus, strawberries, and kale can lower the stress hormone cortisol; and probiotics help regulate gut health (unhealthy gut flora can have a negative impact on brain health and mood). Regular usage of stress-friendly foods may create an environment where the body is not as heavily impacted by stressors and can handle stressful events more efficiently.
How do you tackle stress? What are some tried and true methods that have worked?