If you’re looking to improve your health, reducing stress is the ONE Thing that will make the biggest difference. In the last decade, stress has been linked to a host of chronic illnesses, cancer, obesity, and heart disease.
The problem is stress is a fact of life. It’s all around, and we encounter it every day. Unfortunately, many people have trouble reducing the amount of stress in their lives and managing it. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America report, 44 percent of people believe they are more stressed than they were five years ago. Not only that, but once rears its ugly head, 39 percent of us have difficulty managing it and 31 percent can’t fully recover after stressing out.
Well, now you can stop stressing about stressing out. These five stress management strategies will help you kick anxiety to the curb so you can stay focused on the things that matter most.
Know Your Stress Triggers
The vast majority of people haven’t pinpointed what triggers their stress. When we understand what causes stress, we can avoid those situations all together. Circumventing issues that lead to stress is often easier than trying to manage stress after it’s already started.
If you’re having difficulty figuring out what causes stress, try keeping a journal. Anytime you begin to feel stressed, note what is going on and how you responded. This can help you identify trends that make stress triggers more obvious.
Sleep More and Nap More
Sleep deprivation is only going to make stress worse, but having trouble falling and staying asleep is often a side effect of stress as well. It’s a catch-22 if there ever was one. When you’re already stressed out your body needs more time to recover. During the REM stage of sleep (phase 3 and 4) the body is repairing itself. This includes side effects of both physical and mental “breakdowns”.
In addition to catching more shuteye every night, it can also help to take naps during the day. Not only will this help boost productivity, but napping can also lower cortisol levels, which helps reduce stress.
Reach for Reading Material
A study by the University of Sussex found that of all the most popular relaxation techniques out there, reading worked best to lower stress. It is even better than taking a walk or listening to music. After just six minutes of reading the test’s volunteers had reduced stress levels by approximately 68 percent. It turns out that when you read, your mind is more concentrated and removes you out of the stressful situation. This is the same reason why visualization is recommended for stress relief.
The best part is that it doesn’t matter what reading material you choose. You can read an instruction manual, biography, or comic book and still get the same relaxation benefits.
Give Yourself a Pep Talk
We all talk to ourselves, but the American Heart Association notes that what we say can make a significant impact on our stress levels. It might sound crazy, but talking to yourself in a positive manner can help you reduce stress and stay calm in tough situations.
The trick is to practice positive self-talk daily so that it’s there for you when you are feeling stressed. Also try making yourself smile and laugh when practicing positive self-talk. Laughter has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, like fatigue for instance, almost immediately.
People who help others tend to have lower stress levels. Volunteers also have lower blood pressure and less depression. A study from UnitedHealth Group found that volunteers reported feeling better both physically and mentally after helping out. More specifically, 78 percent said the volunteer experience lowered their stress levels. That’s a win for everybody.
Whether it’s a non-profit that needs your professional expertise or a religious organization, giving your time and energy to others is an effective way to reduce stress. Volunteering also distracts you from stressors and builds support groups that can help you manage stress when it’s coming from work or home.
Still stressed? Here are seven more effective ways to reduce stress and get more done. If you’ve found tricks that have helped you deal with stress share them with us on Facebook!