Have you ever wondered about the average stress level you experience during your life? If one were to ask you about what it was on a scale of one to ten, what would your answer be?
If you’d answer that it’s above 8, you’d fair pretty high within the general population scale. You could be one of those highly capable people in your working environment, who are extremely hard-working and save everyone from the higher stress levels they could be experiencing.
Even saying that you are in the five to seven range is no small amount. This is usually the range of those working 9 to 5, with the occasional demands and obstacles, life throws at you and the countless assignments left behind and things needed to be taken care of.
It is very easy to think of one reason as the sole cause of your stress, including your job, relationship issues or lack of money. However, it’s highly likely that if you experience stress levels above five, you have some other stressors that are weighing on your shoulders, or your neck, or whatever part of your body seems to physically manifest the accumulated stress.
It seems that for every migraine, back pain or neck pain, there lies a multitude of other hidden and silent problems which could cause serious health issue in the long-term or which stress is the main cause.
We are talking about anxiety, panic attacks, depression, heart problems and strokes, weight gain, gastrointestinal issues, headaches and accelerated aging rate.
Eliminating stress out of your life altogether is an impossible task. Sometimes it is a great defense mechanism from in our evolutionary past and is quite useful.
But when it comes to dealing with chronic stress, which is a lot of times caused by unimportant issues and imaginary problems our brains create, there is no reason whatsoever not to find ways to fight and relieve it. In this article, we present you 10 proven ways to decrease stress levels and enjoy life more.
Keep a journal
You might call it a ‘stress journal’, but if you think that’s too negative, you can stick to just a ‘journal’. Keeping a journal is a method to channel all the pent up rage and anxiety you accumulated throughout the day into a written form.
It has been proven numerous times to be one of the best methods to fight off daily stress. The first thing that comes up in people’s minds when someone tells them to keep a journal is that they would have to write down events about every single day, the way misunderstood teenagers do. But that’s not the case. Just a few simple sentences, even scribbling some words can make a significant difference.
The same as admitting to yourself that you are at level nine on the stress scale can aid you in making the decision that you need to make changes in your lifestyle. Bringing your causes of stress into the limelight of your awareness can clearly define them and allow you to fight them. Writing daily occurrences and your emotional response to them would be enough as a start.
Just writing the feelings down can provide an amazing emotional release and keep relieve you from stress at least temporarily, allowing you to get a hold on other matters and deal with and then return to the previous issue later. The way you do this is by revisiting your journal to remind yourself of what you were worried about and how to find the best solution for it.
Perspective is everything. Change it if need be.
It is important to note that nothing that happens in life is in itself stressful. What is stressful is the response you have to a certain situation. It can be said that stress is just your current mental state that puts a filter on the way that you perceive a certain circumstance or event. The filter is usually negative, which causes the stress.
The event or circumstance can be very real, but it’s how you react to them that is important. Just because the reaction is negative, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be changed. It is known in psychology as “cognitive re-framing” and it has been shown repeatedly to be incredibly efficient for a wide range of personalities and issues.
Doing this is not so easy, but it can be done and there are many ways to do it. First, you can start thinking about lot more outcomes or possibilities for something that you previously encountered or thought were simple.
Second, you can identify a certain weakness and not let it frustrate you, but see it as a ladder to developing strength.
Third, when faced with a difficult choice think about how other people or some of your idols would react in the same situation. As you can see, there are lots of ways to do it, and the one thing they have in common is that they force you to think of numerous possibilities you didn’t bother to think existed and making yourself aware of them.
Supplement with magnesium
Magnesium is a very important mineral that will help you decrease cortisol levels, otherwise known as the ‘stress hormone’ that is released when faced with a stressful situation and a hormone related to many health issues.
When cortisol levels are increased for longer periods of time, the risk for muscle loss, depression, mood swings, lowered well-being and poor sleep increase. And it is not surprising that the majority of these symptoms are connected to magnesium deficiency, which is occurring in more than half of people.
One easy way to increase magnesium consumption is to eat nuts for a snack. You can eat almost any type, but the best choices are Brazil nuts, containing 108mg per ounce, almonds 75mg per ounce, cashews 73 mg per ounce, peanuts 49 mg per ounce and walnuts 44 mg per ounce. Each of these types of nuts is rich in essential fatty acids, protein, potassium and many other micronutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Eat an oatmeal in the morning
If you happen to get out of bed feeling stressed about the day ahead, you should prepare something that will leave you satiated before taking on the day. That something is oatmeal.
Oatmeal is rich in complex and slow-digesting carbohydrates that will enable you to maintain steady energy levels throughout the morning.
These slow-digesting carbs will also trigger the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the body, which will cause you to feel calm and centered.
Eliminate simple sugars from your diet
Even though complex carbs can be beneficial to your health, not all of them can do so. Some of them are quite counterproductive in fact. The simple sugars that are found in foods containing white flour or the majority of processed foods and beverages will trigger an instant massive spike in blood glucose levels which will then be followed by a sudden crash.
This will also cause a sudden drop in energy levels, which will make you even less capable of dealing with stressful situations and finding a solution for them. These blood sugar level fluctuations can also cause a significant stress on your body in an overall sense, so you should strive to avoid whenever you can. Opt for complex slow-digesting carbs and add some fruits and veggies too.
Practice meditation and deep breathing
Sometimes you may not notice stress levels accumulating within you. And then other times you can sense it in the form of a sudden panic attack. In either situation, the most common physiological reaction is to start taking quick and shallow breaths, which is completely counterproductive.
The next time you are faced with a stressful situation accompanied by that terrible feeling, remind yourself to breathe in deeply and slowly for one full minute.
What this does is that it increases the supply of oxygen to your body and to the brain, which results in a feeling of calmness that will, in the end, allow you to take control of your emotions.
Taking deep breaths can be so effective that once you try it, you will be amazed at how you didn’t think of doing it before. Numerous studies have shown that the majority of people take shallow breaths and they aren’t even aware of it. You shouldn’t be one of those people.
This simple fix can make a tremendous impact on your quality of life.
Take short walks
Exercising is a great method for alleviating stress. But you’ve probably heard that a thousand times before. That doesn’t mean that exercising should consist of hard and heavy lifting in the gym so that you can clear up the brain fog. A lot of times a brisk walk in the park will do just fine.
Even so much as ten minutes can work wonders for combating stress and will often time be enough for the majority of people to feel more calm and relaxed once they return to their house or to their workplace.
It is recommended that if you are working in front of a computer, you should take 15-minute breaks after every 3 hours of work. You can even pose as a healthy primer to your coworkers who can also find out the benefits of taking short walks.
Eat more dark chocolate
Decreasing sugar consumption is much harder for some people than it is to others. The best strategy for those who have a hard time imagining life without sweets and chocolate is to know which type of chocolate to eat and when.
Ordinary chocolate offers a great many benefits and is an excellent tool in your fight against stress, but some types are better than others.
The best type is dark chocolate. It has a number of various different compounds in it that trigger the release of endorphins in your body, but they are found in the cocoa part, not in the milky part or sugary part or the other additives. When buying chocolate go for the kind that has the biggest cocoa percentage.
Drink more tea
You’ve probably seen lots of pictures of stressed-out people on the Internet. Chances are that many of them would have a cup of coffee placed right beside them while holding their head in desperation about the paperwork that awaits them.
Well, that’s the picture we usually see when browsing through stress-related fitness articles. This would lead many people to believe that drinking coffee is essential to getting through another excruciating day and in most of the cases it is.
However, coffee has also been proven to increase the levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol and increase production of adrenaline, the hormone known for inducing the ‘fight or flight’ reaction.
If you keep doing that for months or years on end it will slowly start to fatigue the adrenal glands, which will eventually lead to mood swings, general fatigue, and anxiety issues. Simply put, coffee is a double-edged sword which can lead to more problems, stressful episodes and feel less energized.
Green and black teas balance the content of caffeine with an amino acid called theanine. It is a very useful compound everyone should get acquainted with. For decades it has been popular for its characteristic of decreasing mental and physical stress, improve your mood and increase cognitive performance as well as increase the levels of neurotransmitters dopamine and GABA.
While various types of tea almost always have less caffeine than your average coffee, they were also proven in studies to reduce cortisol levels a lot more than a placebo. So, feel free to drink them whenever you feel like it.
Find yourself a hobby
When you will the weight of obligations on your shoulders becomes too hard to manage, you think of nothing else than to get rid of it as fast as possible, thinking that doing that is the only way to be happy again.
While that is true in some cases, it is much more bearable to have different aspects of your life that pertain to satisfying your desires only and where pleasure is the only goal. Those are the areas where you seem to be in a “flow” state and you needn’t worry about outside interferences.
That’s why you should engage in activities that should have your full attention and you shouldn’t have any sense of urgency while doing them, only relaxation and pleasure. We are talking about taking up hobbies, of course.
And while your hobby might entail socializing, it is not a necessary component, even though it’s been repeatedly shown to increase happiness and overall well-being. But it doesn’t have to involve socializing to be good. As we said, its only goal is to get you rid of your worries and make you happy.