Stress has recently become the buzzword for ill health.
There’s a whole laundry list of ailments that are being linked to stress starting from temporary memory loss, lack of concentration, bouts of anxiety to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cardiac disorders.
The fact is that stress is a natural physical response to a perceived threat. Anytime your body feels threatened, it activates a series of reactions that prepare you to tackle the threat.
Temporarily, these reactions are healthy and even beneficial. When you have an approaching deadline for example, your body temporarily releases adrenaline, your heart starts to pound, you feel alert and your concentration improves preparing you to tackle the deadline.
The caveat is that when you are constantly stressed, your body continues to be in this preparatory mode which in turn puts a lot of unwanted pressure on your internal system.
That’s when stress starts to become unhealthy rather than protective.
It’s funny how we are constantly reminded about stress and its ill effects on the body which in turn makes us more stressed trying to figure out how to control it.
Here are seven simple but effective stress management techniques that are guaranteed to work provided you are willing to put in that little extra effort needed to incorporate these into your everyday life.
One of the effects of chronic stress is shallow and rapid breathing which is extremely harmful in the long run. Start off by learning to control this. Breathe from your diaphragm and focus on your chest as you do this. Your stomach should expand and contract as you slowly inhale and exhale. It may feel difficult at first. It is not uncommon for people to feel dizzy as they start diaphragmatic breathing. But with practice, it becomes easier. Deep diaphragmatic breathing instantly reduces the release of cortisol, a hormone that is released when the body is stressed.
Identify the stressors
Grab a diary and make a log of your daily activities. At the end of the day, highlight the events or situations that tend to trigger a negative response from you. It may be people around you, situations that you can improve on or procrastination. Now slowly work to eliminate these stressors from your life.
Talk to yourself
When you are stressed, there’s a constant barrage of negative emotions and thoughts that flood your mind. Remind yourself that this is temporary and you can get out of the situation by taking action. Switch off the negative emotions and focus on how you can improve the condition. Make a list of the actions you need to take. Start taking action on the list. There’s nothing more motivating than successfully finishing a task that is stressing you.
Exercise, in any form is tremendously beneficial in helping improve stress. It releases endorphins or feel good hormones which helps boost your mood instantly. You do not necessarily have to go the gym or start vigorous training. Just get out of your office or home and take a walk. If you have a desktop job, then get up every few minutes and stretch. The idea is to get your body moving.
It is critical that you learn to love yourself. Prioritize yourself before anyone else. The inability to say no is one of the most common reasons for chronic stress. If you are feeling overwhelmed with a million to-do things on your list, review it and chalk out the ones that are really important. Postpone or delete the rest. You can only do so much at a time and it is completely ok to say no. Take a nap. Take a break from whatever you are doing. Switch off your cell phone and spend some time with yourself. ‘Me time’ will help you connect with yourself and figure out the things that are going wrong in your life.
The only reason meditation doesn’t top this list of stress management techniques is because it takes a fair amount of practice to master. But meditation is one of the most effective stress management techniques in the world. It helps reduce the neurons in the area of the brain where stress signals originate from. It boosts the secretion of gamma-aminobutyric acid which is a neurotransmitter that induces a sense of calmness. Last but not the least; it can help you reduce the constant, mindless chatter that goes on in your mind when you are stressed. If you feel that it is too difficult to learn, enroll yourself in an online meditation course or watch Youtube videos that guide you. Here’s a great one to get started –
The Japanese practice a technique called ‘Shirin-Yoku’ which translates as ‘Forest Bathing’. Well, before you picture yourself stripping naked in a forest, that’s not what this is about. Forest Bathing means spending a time among trees or nature for that matter. It helps reduce blood pressure and also reduces release of stress hormones. And just in case there’s no forest in your neighborhood, even a walk in the park qualifies as ‘Nature time’. Next time, grab your lunch and head to the park. Oh, don’t forget to switch off your cell phone.