Updated: Nov 7
We all know that stress can play a big factor in our health right? High stress levels can put you at increased risk for a variety of physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment. We don't want that for you! Here are 5 EASY ways to say good-bye to stress!
#1 - Movement
Movement can help reduce stress in a number of ways. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that have mood-boosting effects. Exercise can also help to improve your sleep, which can help to reduce stress levels. Additionally, movement can help to improve your focus and concentration, which can make it easier to deal with stressful situations.
Movement can look like many things, including but not limited to: running, swimming, biking, strength training, yoga, team sports, and tai-chi. The key is to find an activity you like and that fits your lifestyle. Make sure to start slowly and increase the amount of time you spend exercising gradually. Finding a movement buddy can also be a great way to get and stay moving. Remember, even a 15 minute walk can help reduce stress!
#2 - Meditation
Meditation is an awareness practice that can have many forms, including sitting or walking and focusing on your breath or a mantra. There are a variety of types to choose from and you will probably find that one works better for you. Despite popular belief, you can receive health benefits even if you think you are “not good” at meditating. Success does not come from completely clearing your mind from chatter for 10-15 minutes, successful meditation is simply recognizing the present moment.
Mindfulness meditation has been studied extensively and has been shown to have many health benefits. Those benefits can include: reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep, reduced inflammation and chronic pain, being more focused and productive, and even reduced blood pressure. If you are new to or hesitant about meditation, I recommends trying the 7-day free trial of Sam Harris’s “Waking Up” app as a great place to start seeing the benefits of meditation: https://www.wakingup.com/
#3 - Breathing
Stress in the human body is associated with the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). Being stuck in the sympathetic state can cause sleep issues, gut issues, chronic pain, increased risk of diabetes, decreased immune system, and so many more negative things.
The other side of your nervous system is known as parasympathetic (rest and digest) which is what we activate with the Logan Basic technique in the office. While your body needs to be able to adapt and change between both sympathetic and parasympathetic, we want to spend most of our time on the calmer parasympathetic side so our body’s can heal, recover, and thrive. One easy way to activate the parasympathetic side of your nervous system on your own is through breathwork. My favorite breathwork technique is known as “4-7-8” where you breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds.
It can take a bit of practice to get the timing right, but just a few of these breaths will switch your body into the parasympathetic side and you should feel a difference almost immediately. I successfully used this technique before and during her many exams in school. You can learn some other simple ways to breathe and activate your parasympathetics here: https://chriskresser.com/my-top-5-breathing-exercises-for-stress-relief/
(Side note: always make sure to practice new breathwork techniques while seated or lying down, don’t continue if you feel light headed or dizzy, and don’t attempt while driving).
#4 - Practice Gratitude
Did you know that expressing gratitude can raise your happiness by 25%? It can also improve your health, reduce aches and pains, and improve sleep. Expressing gratitude can be as easy as listing three things you are grateful for. Things as simple as a roof over our head and food on our table are blessings that can easily be overlooked during stressful times.
Here are some ways to practice gratitude:
- Write three things you are grateful for in a journal each morning.
- Call a family member and tell them you love and appreciate them.
- Write a card to a friend who has been at your side through tough times and thank them.
- Volunteer your time to a local charity or neighbor in need.
- Donate money or supplies to a good cause.
- Pray or give thanks over dinner before eating it.
- Compliment a stranger.
#5 - Check Your Diet
Diet can increase stress in a number of ways. Eating unhealthy foods can lead to weight gain, which can put additional stress on the body. Additionally, eating foods that are high in sugar or caffeine can make it more difficult to relax and cope with stress. Finally, skipping meals or eating irregular meals can also contribute to stress levels.
What should you avoid to decrease stress? Things like processed foods, sugary foods, and alcohol can all increase inflammation in the body which leads to additional stress. It is also important to eat meals regularly to avoid blood sugar crashes which can again - increase stress on the body. So yes - stop skipping breakfast!
Things you should focus on include eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as eating a solid portion of protein at each meal. Protein will help even out those blood sugar levels as well as keep you fuller longer. Health fats (found in butter, olive oil, fish, and nuts) will also help you stay fuller longer and keep your brain working optimally. Don't forget to stay hydrated and eat in regular intervals.
As we've stressed (see what I did there?) before in all of our blog posts, start small and work your way up. Pick 1-2 of these helpful ways to say good-bye to stress and create a routine. Then add more. Good luck!