Stress is a fact of life for most people, especially during the pandemic.
Job loss, sickness and children’s education are all top of mind for many of us globally. Not only is stress an uncomfortable feeling, but it can also affect your physical and mental health, with the National Institute of Mental Health reporting that “continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.”
Your stress may come from a single source or many, like your job, finances or social life. While you may not be able to change these factors, you can try some techniques to reduce the stress they cause in your life.
Here are five things you can try to bring your stress level down:
Aromatherapy can help you to relax and ease your stress. Lighting some candles with soothing scents or using oils, like lavender, can help you to relax at the end of a long day. This relaxation technique can also help you to sleep, and a good night’s rest can help keep your stress levels down as well.
The foods you eat can make a difference in how stressed you feel throughout the day. Carbohydrates raise your serotonin levels, which helps you feel good. Eating whole grains is a healthy way to get a serotonin release that will stick with you longer. Consume foods that do not make your blood sugar spike, which can make you feel more stressed. Foods high in magnesium can help lower your levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
“Some people may find that food can help relieve stress, but it is important to make healthy choices that you won’t regret later,” says Marites Crispino, director of nursing at Vista Manor Nursing Center. “Rather than stress-eating unhealthy foods like desserts full of sugar, eat a balanced diet with complex carbohydrates, protein and vitamins to keep your blood sugar at healthy levels and prevent fatigue.”
It’s hard to feel stressed when you are laughing at a good joke. That relaxed feeling is more than just a coincidence. Laughing produces changes in your body that can help relieve stress. It helps your body put out more endorphins, which make you feel happy. It can also improve your circulation and help your muscles relax.
When you’re stressed out, relaxing may seem easier said than done. Indeed, it may take some work at first to figure out how to let go of your stress and relax, but the effort is well worth it. Practice breathing exercises or focus on relaxing your muscles to help put your body and mind at ease. Practicing mindfulness or other meditation techniques also can help you to relax.
If stress is overwhelming you, one way to beat it is to get some exercise. Physical activity of any kind should do the trick, so don’t worry too much if running marathons isn’t your cup of tea. Shoot some hoops, do yoga, lift weights or even go on a walk, and you may find your mood improves. Exercising helps you produce endorphins, which helps you feel good. It also can help you sleep better, which improves stress as well.
Some level of stress may be a constant in your life, but you can try these methods to combat the stress and how it affects you. Make relaxation a daily routine so that stressful situations you encounter do not overwhelm your life.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.