We all know stress doesn’t feel good – pounding heart, irritated tummy, disrupted sleep, reactive actions, feelings of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety. Now, we’ve learned stress negatively impacts your body as a whole – contributing to illness and disease, and even aging faster than you should.
Ironically, the awareness that stress is bad for you can be stressful, especially if you’re someone who operates in “stressed out mode” more than you’d like. Relax…
The good news is that making simple changes to reduce stress in your daily life has an exponentially positive impact on physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Why is stress so bad for us?
In a post on why it’s so important to master and manage stress in your life, the University of Minnesota cites a range of studies showing how stress accelerates or worsens the effects of certain health conditions. Most notably:
- Cardiovascular disease (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc.)
- Accelerated aging
- Negative impacts on relationships and job performance
- Decreased immune system function
That last component is huge because the hormones that flood your system during stressful moments or thoughts (cortisol, adrenaline, etc.) are toxic in chronic doses. They exacerbate inflammation and exhaust the immune system, so it can’t take care of you the way it should.
Easy, approachable ways to manage stress in your daily life
While a weeklong silent meditation retreat may sound lovely, it’s not practical for most of us. Instead, we recommend trying some of these easy, approachable methods for reducing and managing stress in your life.
1. Start a gratitude journal
Use a blank notebook, buy a beautiful journal, make use of some wasted computer paper – and start a gratitude journal. Each day, no matter how stressful or awful (or great!) it might have been, you jot down three things you’re grateful for. Sometimes, it might be “potable water from a faucet, electricity, my children,” but it still keeps you focused on what you have (positive)– rather than what you lack or desire (negative).
2. Learn more about anti-inflammatory foods and their benefits
An anti-inflammatory diet is more like a food consumption guideline than a diet. While it does mean minimizing processed foods and refined sugars – it keeps you focused on eating all the colorful, low-fat, nutrient- and fiber-rich foods that are good for you. Also, it’s not short on flavor.
Studies have shown links between eating better and stress relief. In addition to ensuring your body is well-nourished – eating this way improves sleep, keeps you more alert and focused during the day, helps you shed excess weight and can even alleviate symptoms of PMS, PCOS, endometriosis and other inflammation-related women’s health concerns.
3. Download a mindfulness app
Gadgets can be a source of stress, but they can also serve as tools for stress reduction. Mindfulness apps are one example, and reprogramming your brain and body’s response to perceived stress, overriding the habitual pattern of “stress out, flood the system with hormones, crash.”
Mindful.org offers their 5 favorites, and you can also check out healthline.com’s list of best meditation apps for 2019. Have a child that suffers from anxiety? Search online for mindfulness apps for children.
4. Reduce caffeine intake
Guess what? All that heart-pounding and perceived anxiety could be as simple as over-caffeinating. Decreased caffeine tolerance is pretty common as we age – but many don’t realize it since coffee is such a big part of our daily culture.
Decreasing caffeine intake – weaning slowly over a week or two – can reduce stress, and it may also decrease menopause symptoms. Try drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee or tea per day (earlier is better), and then making the rest of your beverages decaf.
5. Laugh more often
Smiling and laughing are natural ways to elevate mood and connect with your fellow humans. We’ve even written a blog about how laughing is good for your health. Spend less time with people who bring you down, and seek out those who are lighthearted, fun, and laugh often to boost the happy hormones in your life.