The day-to-day grind can wear anyone down at some point or another. Stress from increased workloads, arguments with loved ones, financial worries or big life changes can layer on top of each other to create a stress response in the body. These responses often manifest themselves in changes in behavior, intense emotions or physical symptoms. The key to managing stress is in learning strategies to deal with it so that it doesn’t become a bigger issue. Here are some of the best ways that you can manage stress symptoms and ensure that you stay ahead of the curve.
Staying active and keeping your body fit and healthy is absolutely vital in managing stress. Regular exercise lowers the amount of stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol in the body, it helps to release endorphins which improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. Regular exercise is also proven to improve the quality of your sleep, which is often one of the first things to be affected by stress. It also helps you to gain confidence in your self-image which in turn promotes feelings of well-being.
Start a garden
Studies show that gardening is a great way to relieve the symptoms of stress. Whether you have a small window box or a large allotment, cultivating your own green space connects you to nature and instills a sense of peace. This is because you play a part in the creation of something beautiful, which itself is a great reliever of stress. Getting outside in the sunlight boosts your vitamin D levels which also play a role in improving your mood. So, even if you only have a small space where you can tend to some indoor plants, start growing something and see how it reduces your stress levels.
Connect with others
When we are exposed to stress, we can often withdraw from social interaction. However, having a sense of belonging to a network is an essential part of getting through difficult times. Research indicates that women in particular release oxytocin, the happy hormone, when surrounded by friends and family. This hormone naturally relieves stress, so the more time you can spend with friends and family, the less likely you are to feel overwhelmed or depressed.
Engage the brain
Learning is a great way to keep the brain occupied and engaged, this helps to reduce stress levels as it fills theming with positive actions rather than dwelling on negativity. Taking up a new language or enrolling in a different fitness class at the gym helps to build confidence which gives you a better foundation for managing stress. Scientific research indicates that strategic games like poker and chess help to create new neurological pathways in the brain. The complex processes of learning and reinforcement the brain experiences from playing these games help to develop patience, discipline, focus and emotional control.
Another scientifically proven method for dealing with stress is meditation. After just 8 weeks of daily practice, studies have shown that meditation drastically improves the body’s ability to deal with stress. By training the mind to become less reactive and more present, we make it easier to cope with everyday stress. This is because meditation helps us to reframe our reactions to stress and become much more aware of our mental processes when dealing with it. This means we are much less likely to be affected by stress because we are able to perceive it in a different way.
When stress hormones are released into the body, they trigger glucose production in the liver. This is what gives us the energy to activate the flight-or-fight response. So, each time this happens it puts us into a state of anxiety, increasing the blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels. However, deep breathing exercises help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which controls our relaxation response. There are a number of different breathing exercises, so try out a few to see which ones work for you. Particularly when combined with meditation, deep breathing exercises can have a profoundly relaxing effect on the mind and body.
Exercise, meditation, gardening and spending time with loved ones are all great ways to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. Incorporating these methods into your day-to-day life should have a big impact on how you manage stress.