“Stress is a killer.”
You’ve probably heard this adage many times before and for a good reason. After all, this adage is supported by science.
For one, research has proven chronic stress can kill brain cells, resulting in reduced brain size in some people. This is because stress can disrupt the regulation of synapses in the brain, resulting in interaction avoidance and loss of sociability.
Stress refers to how your body responds to demand, challenges, and changes. Anyone and everyone can feel stressed out. But those who experience daily hassles (even minute ones) and major occurrences in their lives, like losing a job or getting divorced, are most susceptible.
To help you manage stress, here are seven strategies Welcare Hospital doctors recommend:
1. Eat and Drink Healthily
Many people turn to alcohol or “stress eat” when they are under pressure. But while these may help momentarily, they aren’t the correct strategy if you’re looking to manage stress for the long run.
The truth is, stress eating and alcohol drinking are counterproductive to what you’re trying to achieve as they add to the stress long-term. The same goes for caffeine, sugar, and fat consumption.
Instead, stick to eating healthy foods and ensuring that your diet is balanced to help your body cope with stress. This also boosts your immunity, lowers blood pressure, and helps level your mood.
2. Get Moving
Moving around may seem unappealing when you’re exhausted from the stressors that surround you, but believe it or not, doing so actually helps you improve your sleep. And better sleep is equivalent to a better chance of coping with stress (more on this later).
Just don’t forget to schedule your physical activities wisely as doing this too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep.
According to experts, exercise helps improve one’s mood by stimulating the hormones endocannabinoids and endorphins. These hormones help block pain signals, have a sedative effect, and, ultimately, make you sleep better.
Sometimes, you may also experience a euphoric feeling popularly known as the “runner’s high” after performing intense workouts, like running. This is another effect that endocannabinoid has.
People also reported reduced anxiety after an exercise and admitted to a more positive feeling about themselves.
The good news is, even if you don’t have time for a formal workout program or exercise, there are still ways you can get moving throughout a busy day, such as:
- Riding a bike instead of driving
- Ditching the elevator for the stairs
- Parking far from the door to your home or office
- Hand-washing your vehicle
- Cleaning the house yourself
- Walking during your lunch break
3. Improve Sleep
Sleep is crucial in easing the effects of stress. But when you have so much to do, you’ll probably think about it all even as you lie on your bed. This disrupts sleep and inadvertently aggravate stress.
Remember that sleep gives your body and brain a chance to recharge, which means it is a vital factor that affects your mood on the next day. It can also affect your energy level, concentration, performance at work, and overall functioning.
If you’re having difficulty getting some shuteye, you should optimise your bedtime routine to induce sleep.
Ensure that your bedroom is quiet enough not to disturb sleep but not too quiet that you can hear your thoughts loudly. You can try putting on some relaxing ambient sounds to drown out your worries. It is also recommended that you put away clocks and smartphones and follow a strict bedtime schedule for sleeping and waking up.
4. Stay Away from Stressful Situations or Triggers
While it is impossible to stay away from stress-inducers 100 per cent, you should still proactively avoid situations, activities, and even people that trigger it.
For most people, life is filled with too many demands and too little time accommodate them. However, most of these demands are there by choice.
You probably didn’t say “no” to a request from a friend or applied for a job that entails more responsibilities than you can handle. Either way, these are things you had the option to decline but didn’t.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should resign from your job then and there or cut ties with your friends. It merely means you have to improve your time-management skills and ask for help when necessary. Set priorities, create a pace you’re comfortable with, and don’t ever forget to set aside time for yourself.
5. Do Yoga
Many people practice yoga for stress relief. The controlled breathing and a wide range of postures bring together mental relaxation while ensuring physical fitness to achieve balance and peace between the body and the mind.
If you’re stressed out, consider taking up yoga classes or watch videos about it.
Hatha yoga is most recommended for stress relief due to its slow pace and easy movements that lasts between 45 to 90 minutes.
6. Start Journaling
If you’re not comfortable talking about it, at least write about your worries.
Journaling is a great way to organise your thoughts, but it is also an excellent strategy for releasing pent-up feelings.
When you keep a journal, don’t think about what you should write. Instead, let the emotions flow and pen whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about perfecting your sentences or making it look professionally written; no one will read it aside from you so just let the words flow freely.
After writing, you have two options: toss it out or save it so you can reflect on whatever you wrote later.
Overthinking causes stress, so you need meditation to calm your mind.
Meditation helps people achieve better focus by silencing the stream of thoughts that crowd the mind.
You can also incorporate aromatherapy while doing this. There are plenty of scents that promote relaxation, but sandalwood oil is best known for settling and balancing emotions that have gone awry.
If All Else Fails, Talk to Professionals
When you’re stressed, it often helps to talk about it with people you know and care about. But if your friends, family, and colleagues are not available or worse – the source of your stress, it may be best to speak with counsellors and other professionals in the field.
There are plenty of hospitals, facilities, and clinics in Dubai that offer helpful counselling services. If all else fails, an expert opinion should help you through chronic stress.