Healthy Ways to Cope With Stress

Road sign with the words Less Stress Just Ahead

Stress is something we are all familiar with. Everyday life bombards us from all angles with various stressors from work, home, family, relationships and so on.  Stress impacts everything around us, including ourselves. It can lead to weight gain, depression, sleeplessness, poor immune system and many other increased health risks (too many to list and why increase your level of stress while reading this).  There are healthy ways to manage stress and overcome the day-to-day challenges. Here are some valuable tips to help get you on track:

1.  Steer Clear of Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine.

Avoid or reduce consumption of nicotine and drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and will increase your level of stress.

Alcohol is a depressant, but acts as a stimulant in small quantities so using alcohol to alleviate stress is not helpful.

Try drinking water, herbal teas, or natural fruit juices diluted with water instead caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.  Keep yourself hydrated will enable your body to cope better with stress.

 

2.  Physical Activity

Stress increases the level of certain hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body.

These are the “fight or flight” hormones in our brains released to protect us from immediate danger when we are threatened.  But, in the today’s age, a fight or flight response is hardly the remedy for what threatens us, so physical exercise can be used to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and return our body and mind to a calmer relaxed state.

When stress occurs and you feel tense, go for a walk outside.  Ultimately it is best to try to incorporate some form of regular physical activity into your daily routine.  Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.

 

3.  Get More Sleep

Here’s the catch 22 of all… Stress can cause an interruption of quality sleep and a lack of sleep can cause stress. How do we stop our thoughts from swirling around in our heads and get the maximum amount of relaxation needed to get a good night’s sleep?  Make sure your bedroom is peaceful, almost a sanctuary, with no reminders of the things that cause you stress. Avoid eating or consuming anything with caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. Stop doing mentally demanding work at least an hour before going to bed so your brain has time to calm down.  Other things to try before bedtime might be taking a warm bath or reading a calming, undemanding book for a few minutes to relax your body and tire your eyes. Setting a habit of going to bed around the time each night will help your mind and body get used to a regular bedtime routine.

 

4.  Try Different Methods of Relaxation

Try to relax each day with a stress reduction technique.  There are many ways to reduce stress so try a variety and see what works for you.

Self-hypnosis is very easy and can be done anywhere. A simple way to do this is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to YOU. Maybe it’s a word like "calm" "love" or "peace" that work well for you. Or there’s a phrase/mantra that has an affirming meaning to like “I deserve…” or “Grant me…”.  Focus on your word or phrase; if your mind wanders, clear your thoughts and return to your word or phrase. Definitely do not become stressed if you find this practice difficult at first. It takes time to learn what works for you and practice.

 

5.  Talking it Out

Simply talking to someone about how you feel can make such a tremendous difference.  Verbalizing your feelings out loud can either distract you from your stressful thoughts or release the built up tension.

Stress can keep you from seeing things clearly and impair your judgment.  Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or seeking the help of a trained professional, can help find possible solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective.

 

6.  Journal Your Stress

Writing down and keeping a journal for a few weeks is an amazing tool to help you become more aware of the situations that cause you to become stressed.

Note the specific details each time you became stressed.  For example: Date, time and place of each stressful situation, and note what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt physically and emotionally.  Give each situation a rating (say 1-10) and use this to help understand what triggers your stress. This could help you avoid stressful situations and work on how to better cope.

 

7.  Take Control

Problems that we may feel are impossible to solve will trigger stress. Learning ways to solve your problems will help reduce the level of stress. Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve.

Going back to journaling is a good problem-solving technique. Writing down what the problem is and then list as many solutions as you can think of for that problem.  Go through the pros and cons of each solution and select the best option. Write down your action plan for implementing the solution and give yourself a deadline to hold yourself accountable.

 

8.  Time Management

The never ending 'To Do” list can have us all feeling overburdened at times and this is a common cause of stress. Once we all accept the fact that we can’t do everything at once and start to prioritize, the stress will decrease.

Make a list of the things that you need to do and then order them by legitimate priority. Some things on your “To Do” list could possibly be delegated to others leaving the higher priority tasks to be handled by you personally.  Also document the task that must be done now versus next week or month.

Don’t forget to give yourself some cushion on the completion times to deal with the unexpected as well as give yourself some time for your own relaxation.

 

9. Learning to Say ‘No’

Another cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time to do it.  Yet many of us in this situation will still agree to take on more. It is ok to say “No” and learning to say “No” will help to reduce your level of stress.

It’s important to first understand why you find it difficult to say “No”.  Some of the more common reasons people find it difficult to say “No” are because they always want to help, trying to be nice or liked, fear of conflict, fear of rejection and the possibility of a missed opportunity.  Keep in mind that these barriers to saying “No” are all self-created and you may feel reluctant to respond to a request with a straight “No”, so try and write some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently.  Practice saying these phrases to yourself to help gain some confidence for when it comes time to implement them.

 

10. Rest

When you are sick or just don’t feel well, it is ok to rest. You do not have to carry on. Take some time to rest and give your body a chance to heal and recover.