July GO Challenge:
De-stress your life.
We all face stress in our lives, and we’ve all been told to avoid it. But do we? Because it’s something that’s hard to measure or even see, we tend to think of stress as not actually “real.” After all, how can something invisible be that bad for you?
The truth is, it’s bad. Unchecked stress can lead to all sorts of health conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and even heart disease. Did you know that 75-90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related complaints and ailments? That’s serious. Stress can affect your body, your mood, and your behavior.
Is this silent toxin affecting you? Common warning signs of stress may include:
- Upset stomach
- Weight gain
- Sleeping problems
- Muscle tension or pain
- Changes in sex drive
- Sadness, depression
- Angry outbursts
- Overeating or undereating
- Drug, alcohol or tobacco use
The good news is, you can conquer stress.
Simple tips to help you relax.
Here are some simple ways to defuse common stressors.
- Breathe. When you’re feeling stressed, pause and take a few deep breaths. Sit up straight, close your eyes, and breathe slowly and deeply. Feel the air filling your lungs and calming you down. While shallow breathing can cause stress, deep breathing does just the opposite by slowing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and clearing your mind.
- Make a list. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a to-do list. Once tasks are written down somewhere, you can stop stressing about them and start doing them. There’s nothing like checking items off a list to ease a worried mind.
- Call a friend. Your support network is a great defense against stress. When you’re feeling anxious, talk to a friend. Face-to-face contact is best, but even a phone chat will work. Tell them what’s going on. Sometimes just hearing a kind voice is all you need to put things into perspective.
- Get moving. When your body starts moving, your brain releases feel-good endorphins to help reduce anxiety. Take a quick walk, do a little stretching, or go work out at the gym. Anything you do to get your blood moving should improve your mood almost immediately.
- Listen to music. According to research, listening to calming music can lower your blood pressure and reduce cortisol, the hormone linked to stress. Nature sounds also seem to do the trick. Prefer more upbeat music? Rocking out to your favorite tunes may help you blow off steam as well.
- Meditate. Regular meditation can lead to reduced stress, better sleep, and other health benefits. Here’s a quick refresher on how to meditate from our October GO Challenge. Remember, the more you practice meditation, the easier it is to do and the greater your rewards.
- Laugh out loud. Laughter releases feel-good endorphins into your brain and lowers your level of the stress hormone cortisol. If you want to chill out, try watching a funny movie, sitcom or YouTube video. Listen to standup comics. Or just spend time with your most hilarious friends.
Are you creating your own stress?
It may surprise you to know that stress doesn’t always come from outside sources. Often, we create it ourselves. Here are some common, everyday habits that could be causing stress and anxiety in your life.
- Skipping meals. Eating regular meals is essential not only for your metabolism, but your mental health as well. If you wait too long to eat or skip breakfast, you may experience unstable blood sugar levels which can cause shakiness, dizziness, confusion or other anxiety-like symptoms. To prevent blood sugar swings, eat regularly and keep healthy snacks on hand.
- Not getting enough sleep. According to neuroscientists, sleep deprivation fires up the regions of the brain associated with excessive worrying. The impact is even greater for chronic worriers. If you’ve been feeling anxious lately, the answer could be as simple as going to bed earlier.
- Running late. Are you unknowingly adding to your stress load with poor time management? Always give yourself enough time to get things done. If that means getting up 10 minutes earlier or allowing more time for travel, do it. Be on time. You’ll be surprised how much calmer you feel when you’re not running late.
- Staying indoors. If you’ve ever stayed home because you were a little sad or anxious, you probably thought you were doing something good for yourself. Actually, staying home alone is one of the worst things you can do for anxiety. Studies have found that being outdoors and spending time with others keeps you active, productive and feeling positive. The vitamin D from the sun also helps to elevate your mood and lessen anxiety.
- Social media overload. While there are benefits to staying connected, too much social media can lead to feelings of anxiety. Young people in particular feel the pressure to be reachable 24/7 and to respond to posts/texts immediately, increasing their stress level. The light from digital devices also kick-starts your brain, making it even harder to relax. So be sure to power down a good hour before bedtime.
Do a quick mind/body check. Remember, learning how to handle stress takes time, so be patient with yourself. Keep practicing the techniques listed above — especially the breathing — and soon you’ll be feeling the difference. Before we leave you, here’s one last stress-busting tip:
- Try green tea. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, which can leave you feeling jittery and anxious, have a cup of green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee, and it contains healthy antioxidants and theanine, an amino acid that calms and soothes your nerves.