Do you feel stressed or anxious from time to time? That’s an understatement, right? Life can be fast-paced and filled with many challenges, some exciting and unfortunately, some that can be difficult. Changes can often cause stress, which can be unavoidable and impact your quality of life.
A little bit of stress is normal, such as the jitters you feel before your first day at a new job or anxiety before a public speaking engagement. These kinds of stress can be beneficial and help motivate you to prepare for the stressful event or situation. Short-term stress is normal and healthy, and your body should be able to return to normal mode once the stressful event is over.
However, chronic stress, when you are consistently stressed for a long period of time, can become damaging to your health. Chronic stress can lead to cardiac arrest, a compromised immune system, diabetes, or hypertension.1 These conditions can cause physical and emotional hardships and even shorten the length of your life span.
The good news is that you can manage your stress using several different methods. Here are some good places to start:
Check your diet - it really makes a difference!
One simple and effective way to ensure that your body and mind are supported is to check your diet. Your body and mind need a broad array of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to thrive. Without them, your mental health can suffer. Enjoy eating a diet full of fresh, organic, plant-based foods to provide the best support for your physical body and to boost your mental health, too.
Get your blood pumping
Exercise isn’t just good for your waistline – it's great for your brain health as well! Exercise releases endorphins and has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression due to increased blood circulation.2 Aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, walking, cycling, or dancing have all been linked to beneficial impacts on mental health, as well as improving sleep, increasing energy, and improving cardiovascular fitness. It’s never too late to get active and have fun!
Calm your mind
Practicing regular meditation or deep-breathing exercises can also help calm your mind. These practices have shown to reduce anxiety and stress through mindfulness.3 Meditation involves sitting comfortably, focusing on deep breathing, and then bringing your attention to the present without worrying about future concerns. These practices can help you recognize when unnecessary and unproductive stress is occurring so you can calm any fear before it starts.
Stretch your body
Similar to the effects of meditation and deep breathing, yoga is a more active approach to practicing mindfulness. Yoga helps you to increase your awareness, reduce muscle tension, and calms the central nervous system. Yoga can also help you to sleep better and, if you prefer group classes, increases your sense of belonging and community.4 In addition, yoga can help stretch out muscles after a workout or get your blood pumping for an added endorphin boost!
Find what soothes you
Everyone is different, and everyone is soothed by different activities. You might find gardening to be the most relaxing hobby you can do for yourself, or you might work out your frustrations in the gym. Whichever way you choose to relax, make an effort to practice a calming strategy regularly, not just in times of stress, to achieve your best possible mental health.
Have you ever scrolled through social media or watched the news and found yourself being enamored by the “perfect” lives of celebrities? Maybe you felt overwhelmed seeing turmoil in the world, or exasperated by the hurtful words of others. When these feelings become too immense, take time to prioritize yourself and literally upgrade your mental health. Turn off the computer or cell phone. Then, just sit in a garden for a few minutes, go for a walk, or read a calming book. Prioritizing your mental health when you are overwhelmed by the lives and actions of others can help make a significant improvement to your mood and mentality.
- Jenny Kings April. “The Physical Effects of Stress: How Your Fast-Paced Life Can Kill You.” Dr. Ginger Martire – Saratoga, CA, 10 Mar. 2016, www.gingermartirephd.com/physical-effects-stress-fast-paced-life-can-kill/#:~:text=If%20you%20live%20a%20fast,and%20produce%20many%20health%20benefits.
- Sharma, Ashish, et al. “Exercise for Mental Health.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/.
- Corliss, Julie. “Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress.” Harvard Health Blog, 5 Aug. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967.
- “Take a Stand for Yoga Today.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 23 May 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201305/take-stand-yoga-today.