Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? It’s nice to know that there’s an official month dedicated to overall wellness and recognizing stress, triggers, and how to deal with them all. With all of the hats we juggle as family members, professionals, partners, friends, colleagues, and so on, we’ve all experienced some level of stress. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are stressed out until somebody points it out or asks about it. Because we are so used to living hectic lives and balancing crazy schedules, it’s almost acceptable and viewed as normal to deal with stress as often as we do; when in reality, it’s not. In honor of taking control of our health and wellness, here are a few ways to minimize stress and live more carefree lives.
Exercise is beneficial for many reasons outside of staying active, healthy and fit. One of those benefits is that it helps with stress. We’ve all been told that stress is the leading cause of many illnesses and physical ailments; we are prone to experience these issues if not checked early on, because stress can dominate our mental capacity. When stress affects the brain and its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. So, it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activities produce endorphins (chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers) and improve our ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Science shows that regular exercise has been proven to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and boost self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. One hour of exercise a day can keep the stress away!
Social Media Blackout
Sometimes, it’s crazy external factors that add to stress. Social media is great because it keeps us connected and well-informed...but it’s also a huge distraction and can be a harmful tool if you find yourself envious of others' lives to the point where you are playing the comparison game. Take intermittent breaks from your social media pages and spend that time doing things that are more productive, such as catching up on work, sleeping, investing time in a hobby, or just relaxing. It will do wonders. Remember, there was a time when social media, and cell phones in general, were non-existent - and we were fine!
Cancelling Toxic Relationships
Again, analyze the external triggers of your stress. Do you have a coworker who vents daily in your office about whatever inconveniences life throws their way? Have a conversation with said person and let them know you can’t entertain those conversations at work (or at all) because it’s distracting you from getting things done. Do you have a friend that never has anything positive to say, is pessimistic, or is always complaining about something? Maybe it’s time to spend less time with said friend or cut that relationship off completely. The same goes for family or your job if either is causing too much stress. You control your space and have the right to say who can and cannot be in it.
This has little to do with religion and more to do with knowing that there’s a higher power than you. When I actually sit back and reflect, the things I find myself stressing over are silly because I know that in the end, all will be fine. How many times have we psyched ourselves out or dramatically predicted scenarios in our mind that’ll likely never happen, causing additional and unnecessary stress? I start my day with a prayer, listen to gospel music, and find myself meditating at least twice a day to recenter myself. Nothing is worth that level of stress, especially when you know that a higher power is in control and there’s nothing too big or small for you to handle.
This is a tricky one, because sleeping too much can be a slippery slope toward escaping the day to day demands of our lives. What I don’t want is for anyone reading this to confuse sleeping more and sleeping too much, as some who find themselves sleeping a lot more than others may be experiencing depression or other mental health concerns. However, it’s important to note that if we don’t maintain a healthy sleep schedule, it throws our minds, bodies, and focus off, which adds to stress simply because we are tired. If you’re stressed, you might not be able to fall into a deep sleep, which helps your mind and body restore itself. Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. A regular sleep pattern improves concentration, regulates moods, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested. If you’re unable to get enough sleep throughout the week because of work or familial obligations, at least try to make that up with naps on the weekend, which are also important to productivity.
What can you do to lessen your sources of stress?