How to stomp out stress
Stress? Who has stress these days? Everyone is perfectly relaxed, right? If only that were true. Whether it’s global issues, family disputes, marital troubles, financial difficulties, work worries or general anxiety, most people deal with stress on a fairly regular basis. It’s no fun, and, worse, it can increase your blood pressure and lead to physical and mental health problems if gone unchecked.1 So let’s look at some simple ways to help bring your stress levels down, from staying really still to moving really fast.
Take a breather
When you’re feeling stressed, the “fight or flight” mechanism in your brain is activated. Deep breathing is a great way to flick that mental switch off. Specifically, you should practice what’s called “belly breathing,” which is pretty self-explanatory: breathe in deeply through your nose to fill your belly, and feel it rise. Then breathe out slowly.2 You can do this to calm yourself down during a particularly stressful moment, or on a regular basis as part of some other stress-busting practices we’ll talk about coming right up.
Try yoga or meditation
Breathing is a big part of yoga and meditation, too. If you’ve never tried yoga, it’s easy to find YouTube videos for beginners or simple, stress-reducing moves online. If you’re new to meditation, it can be as simple as sitting still for a few minutes, eyes open or closed, while you focus on the in-and-out of your breaths and try not to dwell on other thoughts.3 You can find plenty of tips online, including guided meditations that will help you through it.
Find a stress-busting diet
Many of us probably consider snacks like chips and chocolate “comfort foods” when we’re feeling down or stressed. Unfortunately, sugar can actually weaken your ability to deal with stress.4 If you want food that can help ease your stress level, try whole-grain bread or oatmeal, oranges, spinach, salmon or tuna, black tea, pistachios, avocados, almonds, raw veggies, and low-fat milk.5
Work out to work out stress
Obviously, exercise has a ton of physical benefits, but it’s great for your mental health, too. Whether you’re running or lifting or anything in between, it produces endorphins in your brain that make you feel good, it focuses your mind on the task at hand and away from your stressors, and it can generally improve your mood.6
Sleep your stress away
When you don’t catch enough z’s on a regular basis (we’re talking about 7-9 hours for most people), it can not only make you feel down, but it can contribute to depression and a number of physical health ssues.7 Trouble is, it’s a bit of a Catch-22: you need sleep to improve your stress level, but sometimes when you’re stressed you have trouble sleeping. The answer could be to try some of the other tips we’ve mentioned here: before bed, do some yoga, meditate, drink herbal tea, or do some very light exercise.8
Hopefully these tips will help you take a little mental vacation away from whatever is stressing you out these days. And practicing them regularly could help you respond to new stresses with a calmer state of mind.
1 webmd.com, “Stress Symptoms,” August 1, 2019.
2 health.harvard.edu, “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response,” April 13, 2018.
3 mindful.org, “How to Meditate,” January 31, 2019.
4 healthline.com, “Your Anxiety Loves Sugar. Eat These Three Things Instead.”
5 webmd.com, “Foods That Help Tame Stress,” November 5, 2019.
6 mayoclinic.org, “Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress,” March 8, 2018.
7 medicalnewstoday.com, “How to tell if stress is affecting your sleep,” September 5, 2018.
8 stress.org, “Stress and Sleep – How To Master Stress And Enjoy Restful Sleep Instantly,” June 12, 2018.