As our lives get busier, and the daily demands on our time increase, our stress levels can build. Over time, this increased stress leads to diseases, inflammation, and even premature aging, which is why it’s so important to take a proactive approach to keeping our stress levels under control.
When it feels as though our lives are out of our control, controlling the things we can can have a significant positive impact on improving our overall mental health. What we do on a regular basis — our daily habits or our lifestyle — has a significant impact on our ability to manage stress.
If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some practical lifestyle approaches that can help you manage your stress, and better care for yourself so that you can care for those around you.
We believe good nutrition lights the spark to thrive in all of us, no matter who we are, what our age is, or where we live. And the research supports our stance. Research from the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine states that eating a balanced diet consisting mainly of whole foods with targeting herbal supplements, “can help individuals cope with the taxing effects of stress and restore health and wellbeing.” Not only that, but eating a, “proper diet can counterbalance the impact of stress by strengthening the immune system, stabilizing moods, and reducing blood pressure.”
Give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive by making simple meals that are easy to prepare. Focus on macronutrients such as protein, carbs, and fat at every meal, with vegetables making up at least half of your plate. If you find it difficult to meet your nutrient needs through diet alone, a quality mutli-vitmain like the Nurture by Metagenics Multi-Vitamin with Phytonutrients can help support your overall good health and contains a blend of highly concentrated full-spectrum phytonutrients enhanced with selective bioactive plant compounds, and 20+ essential vitamins and minerals for multidimensional health support.
Finally — don’t forget to hydrate! Drinking enough water ensures that all your body’s systems are running at peak performance. Set yourself reminders on your smartphone if you have trouble getting your daily water intake.
And, as much as you should focus on getting the right nutrients, you should also focus on avoiding certain things. Limiting caffeine, sugar, and processed foods will help you feel your best and better manage your stress levels.
Daily movement through exercise is another excellent stress management strategy most people can start right away. Research has found that regular physical activity such as walking, running, or participating in sports can not only improve your mood while distracting you from upsetting thoughts, it is also effective at relieving tension and stress.
While the experts recommend regularly exercising for 30 minutes or more for the most noticeable benefit, you can always build up to it gradually, starting in 10-minute increments. Find activities that you enjoy, so that exercise feels less like a chore and more like fun.
Be sure to speak with your physician before starting any exercise regimen to determine if it's right for you, especially if you’re dealing with any health conditions.
We’ve all felt how challenging it can be to take on the day’s tasks after a poor night’s sleep, and chronic poor sleep habits can lead to a number of health conditions. Additionally, the American Psychological Association notes that “adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours a night.”
Start working towards getting a better night’s sleep, starting tonight, by implementing some of these strategies:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Implement a calming pre-sleep routine
- Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full
- Limit caffeine intake, especially later in the day
- Create an ideal sleeping space (dark, quiet, cool temperature)
- Leave your worries outside the bedroom by writing them down in a journal before bed
Cultivating a meditation practice has never been easier with plenty of studios across the country offering various forms of meditation sessions. A quick YouTube search turns up results tailored for kids, sleep, and various guided meditations, while mobile apps make it easy to take your meditation practice on the go.
Meditation sessions don’t have to take long either -- research shows that even just 10 minutes daily is all it takes to provide noticeable benefits, and many people experience benefits after their very first session.
To start meditating, find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes, and inhale deeply through the nose and out through the mouth three or four times. Then, let your breathing return to normal. As you breathe in and out, focus on your breath while repeating a short, simple word or phrase silently to yourself. This mantra could be “peace,” “love,” “ohm,” or anything else you find comforting or relaxing. Repeat the word at a pace that is comfortable for you, continuing to breathe. Do this for 10 minutes, starting with shorter sessions if necessary. When you’re finished, sit quietly for a few moments before bringing your attention back to your surroundings and gently opening your eyes.
Talk to Someone
Whether you share your worries with a friend, family member, or a mental health professional, it’s important to have someone that you can unload with. Research suggests that by sharing your feelings with someone (especially if they have similar feelings) you can help to reduce your stress levels.
So, make the time to connect with someone on a regular basis if you want to reduce your stress levels. By connecting with others, you create experiences that inspire a more positive, proactive, and motivated mindset for a healthier, happier you.