Stress is a feeling everybody experiences. It may be that you’re stressed out about work, feeling the stress because of a burden to perform, or simply stressing out about that little remark someone made to you. Stress is simply a natural occurrence and can be very useful. When you get attacked or when you’re in danger, you get an adrenaline rush, you experience enormous amounts of stress. In the short term, this stress is very beneficial, it makes us more alert, gives us more energy, and increases our chances of survival. In the long term, however, stress can be extremely detrimental to your health. Once you experience chronic stress, you’re body and your immune system slowly start breaking down, making you more liable to get sick, and leaving your health in an overall more fragile state.
We want to avoid this chronic stress at all costs, but to do that we first have to understand what stress really is. Especially in today's society, where there are no tigers out to kill us, and there are no tribes wanting to plunder our village and take all our women, there is no physical reason to get stressed, but still, we do, why?
Because stress is a concept of the mind, it’s all inside your head. The stress you feel is based on your perception of events, and your body can respond to this perception in the form of stress. You unconsciously feel like you’re in a constant state of danger, and so does your body.
We want to avoid feeling stress for long periods of time because we know what it does to our health, so how do we manage this? Well, there are a couple of techniques and tricks you can use to manage your stress and relieve some of it. Getting rid of the stress you're feeling in the moment can easily be done with a couple of exercises such as mindfulness or breathing. Getting rid of it completely in the long term is done by taking care of your body, providing it with good food, exercise, and enough sleep.
In this blog, we’re going to talk about certain techniques that will help you reduce your stress, and make sure you can live your life the way you want to: stress-free.
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques:
When you’re stressed out, the only thing you want to do is to get rid of that stress and feel calm again. The adrenaline and cortisol that’s circulating in your body have to be lowered, but how? The most effective way to calm yourself down is by using a mindfulness technique. There are multiple techniques you can apply, some will work better than others, this just depends on the person. Everyone is different, so first experiment with these techniques and see what works for you. Here are at least three mindfulness techniques you could use:
Taking a deep breath will dissolve a lot of the stress you're feeling almost instantaneously. Through your breath, you can slow down your heart rate, and as a result also lower the circulation of the stress hormones released by your body. This will result in you feeling calmer, less stressed, and more energized. Simply hold your breath for 10 seconds, slowly in, and slowly out. Do this a couple of times until you notice that the tension is releasing.
The stressful events that happen at work or in life can be at the forefront of our minds sometimes. It is hard to think of something else, so we get distracted from our work and are unable to focus. This is where meditation comes in. When you meditate, you focus on one thing, your breath, a word, some say even your feet. When you focus on one thing long enough, you’ll start to forget all the other distractions that were in your mind. Now your head is clear again and the distraction won’t bother you anymore. Meditation mainly helps to improve focus, even if you’re not stressed out. It will give you a better ability to focus and will put you in the present, instead of worrying about the future.
Your mind can be cluttered by all kinds of events. Stressful things that happen tend to stay stuck in your mind, with you going over them again and again. Journaling is the most effective way to stop this. With journaling you simply put to paper what is on your mind at the time. Whether it’s stressful situations, thoughts you’re having, or simply ideas or memories. Write down what is bothering you, what is on your mind, and what you’re stressed about. Transfer the thoughts into something physical, something you can feel and touch. When you make it physical and you put your thoughts on paper, it is way easier to look at them from a distance. Now you can see them objectively and they are not so scary anymore, they don’t provoke the same emotional response.
Journalling is a way to get something that’s bothering you off your chest. Once you’re done you’ll feel like a load has dropped off your shoulders.
Manage your time:
Your time is the most valuable thing you possess, and everybody wants to get a piece of it. Work, friends, family, all of them want your time. This demand for your time can become very stressful, especially when you feel like you don’t have enough time and that you’re too busy. You feel like you need to hurry all the time because tasks otherwise won’t get done, or that you’ll disappoint someone by canceling the appointment. All of this can be very stressful and is especially unhealthy when you hold this up for a longer period of time.
Managing your time therefore is an important part of lowering your stress. Managing it so that you get to have your me-time, that you don’t have to hurry to get everything done but that you can take your time, and prioritizing certain tasks and appointments which means learning how to say no too. Time management is crucial in any stress management program. Here are three tactics that will help you manage your time:
To manage your time, you need to know what is important and what is not. What is worth your time, and what is worth less or even none of your time. This means having to choose who you spend your time with and what to spend your time on. The important tasks or events that you have to do and cost the most time get planned first, and everything else comes after that. Less important tasks can be piled up on top of each other and done in one sprint instead of in daily increments, they can be delegated to other people who can do that task for you, or they can be dismissed completely because they are not important enough. Time is the most valuable thing that you have, don’t make it the most stressful thing too.
Also important is that after you’ve planned your time based on prioritization, you keep some time reserved for yourself. Time that you can spend doing what you like, whether it be an activity, doing something with someone else, or simply relaxing. You need something that recharges you, that lets you recover from a tough day or week, so that you can get after it again with full energy the next day.
3-Setting realistic goals
When creating your schedule for the day or the week, make sure you have enough time planned out for your tasks. Don’t make it a race against the clock to finish what you’re doing, this will only make you more stressed out and worsen the problem. Yes, sometimes it is very useful to feel the stress of a deadline to get things done, but if we’re trying to avoid stress we want to make sure we have enough time.
Setting realistic goals is also about knowing what you’re capable of, indeed planning your time accordingly but also planning out what you want to achieve over a certain period of time. Make it realistic and achievable, not too grandiose or impossible, because then you’re only going to be disappointed and stressed out as a result.
Taking care of your body:
One of the most effective ways to combat stress is by paying attention to your health. Stress will often result from an unhealthy body, and through this stress, your body gets even more worn down which accelerates the downward spiral of stress. If you want to reduce your stress drastically, you have to take care of your body. All of the important factors for this are your daily movement (exercise), what you eat, and how and how long you sleep. Here they are:
Movement is an important factor in mitigating your stress levels. Through exercising your body releases certain hormones called endorphins. These hormones make you feel good and will reduce your stress level as a result. They act like a sort of pain-killing hormone, which means it will almost give you a kind of natural high. In addition, people who suffer from stress often also have a decreased ability to sleep, exercising helps with this by making sleeping easier, mainly because your body is tired after exercising and wants to recover.
Frequently exercising also will make your body work more efficiently, this will also lower your stress levels as a whole and make you feel better physically as well as mentally.
Bad foods are genuinely stressful for your body. It's not made to process most of the foods we eat today, and it is not meant to carry as much body fat as most of us carry around now. Junk food, candy, sodas, and other foods that are bad for you directly increase your stress. By giving you less energy, making you unfocused, putting unnecessary strain on your body, and messing up your hormones. If you want to relieve this stress, you have to eat a little cleaner. It means leaving the sweets, the junk food, and the sodas aside, at the most eating them once in a while, and moving on to healthier food options. There are many diets that will help you with this, the only thing I would recommend is that you get as natural foods as possible and less processed foods. Besides that, it doesn’t really matter what diet you choose, just see what works for you.
When we are stressed out, it can be quite difficult to get a good night's rest. Thoughts and worries are spooking through our minds, our body is still too awake to pass out, so we get deprived of our necessary sleep, significantly reducing it or even not being able to sleep at all. This causes a ton of other health and work problems that we prefer to avoid. Plus it will even worsen the stress you’re already feeling because your body wasn’t able to recover.
There are multiple ways to improve your sleep. Firstly like we said, get some exercise. This will make you tired and makes falling asleep much easier. Besides that make sure that your bedtimes are the same, and that the amount of time you’re sleeping is enough for you. The average is 8 hours, but if you need more or less feel free to do so. Another thing you can do is practice some mindfulness just before going to bed, letting yourself and your thoughts calm down so that your mind is less active. Each of the techniques we mentioned earlier in this blog will make sleeping easier. Sleeping is important to reduce stress because it lets your body recover, all the stress that has been built up over the day gets cleansed when you fall asleep. Make sure you get adequate sleep, combined with exercise and diet, and stress will be a thing of the past.