11 Ways to Cope With Stress
Seven out of ten adults in the US suffer from stress and anxiety. Job stress resulted in approximately 300 billion dollars in economic loss to the US industry due to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and accidents.
Stress is a body’s response to pressure. It can arise from different situations or life events, and it’s triggered when unexpected events threaten our sense of self.
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
While stress is a normal part of life, too much of it is detrimental to the body. Recent research reveals that about 75 percent of doctor office visits are associated with stress.
Some of the typical stress response includes:
- high blood pressure
- muscle tension
- mental health problems
- physical pain
- development of unhealthy habits
Most often, we are stressed when we feel we have little control over a situation. We become unsettled and constantly on edge as our emotions run high.
Relaxation Techniques and Activities to Reduce Stress
Experiencing constant stress is not a healthy way to live. Below are effective stress management techniques that you can perform for just a few minutes a day to relieve stress:
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) involves slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle in the body. The process of tensing the muscles reduces anxiety and allows for relaxation.
You can do PMR by tensing your muscles one by one as you breathe in. As the name suggests, you focus on a single muscle and work toward other muscles in your body.
Here is an example of how you can do PMR:
1. Start by tensing and then relaxing your feet.
2. Next, tense and relax your calves.
3. Then, tense and relax your thighs.
4. After that, tense and relax your abdomen.
5. Next, tense and relax your chest.
6. Following that, tense and relax your upper arms.
7. Lastly, tense and relax your facial muscles.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet provides the body with the essential nutrients to function properly. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants all play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
A strong immune system is important in fighting infection and illnesses and coping with stressful events.
Additionally, a healthy diet can help to boost energy levels. A healthy energy level is especially important when stress has taken its toll and left you feeling drained and exhausted. Eating nutrient-rich foods can give you the energy you need to get through the day.
3. Perform Deep Breathing Exercises
Stress triggers the release of a significant amount of cortisol hormones, which induces symptoms associated with “fight or flight.” Elevated cortisol levels increase blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
Deep breathing revitalizes the parasympathetic nervous system and triggers the reduction of cortisol levels. Thus, performing deep breathing exercises is an excellent way to manage stress. Studies show that deep breathing exercises increase the amount of oxygen in the blood and decrease stress hormones.
4. Exercise Regularly
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that physical activity reduces stress levels. Performing exercises triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters.
Researchers at the ADAA confirmed that when we exercise, our bodies produce the natural painkiller endorphins. Endorphins bind to receptors in the brain and reduce our perception of pain.
Exercise also helps in managing stress by releasing tension from the muscles. When the body is not in pain, it can handle stress better, making regular exercise an excellent stress reduction technique.
5. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health believe challenging negative thoughts and maintaining a positive attitude is one of the most effective stress relief strategies.
The mechanism of the relationship between a positive attitude and health remains unclear. However, researchers believe that people who maintain positive attitudes develop better immune systems that protect them against the inflammatory effect of stress.
6. Try Stress Relief Supplements
Supplements can be a helpful way to alleviate symptoms and promote relaxation. Stress supplements can help reduce stress levels and improve our overall health and well-being.
Some of the common stress-busting supplements include:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids cross the blood-brain barrier and influence the brain and central nervous system. These polyunsaturated fats affect physiological and perceived reactions to mental stress, such as heart rate and cortisol levels. This makes omega-3 fatty acids a promising treatment for reducing the negative effects of stress on the body.
Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb known to reduce anxiety and stress. Its stress-relieving effect is likely due to its ability to modulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis.
This herb lowers cortisol levels and acts as an adaptogen, which can help the body better cope with stress. Additionally, ashwagandha has cognitive-enhancing effects, which may help reduce stress.
Melatonin. Melatonin supplement promotes sleep quality. It also helps alleviate stress, which is another major factor that can impact our health and well-being.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D can help reduce stress levels because it regulates the production of serotonin, which contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being.
Additionally, vitamin D helps to support adrenal health, which is important for managing stress responses. When vitamin D levels are low, it can lead to increased cortisol levels, a hormone released in response to stress. By ensuring that you have sufficient levels of vitamin D, you can help your body better manage stressful situations.
7. Get Musical and Be Creative
Listening to music can be a great way to relax and de-stress. It can help drown out background noise, block distractions, and provide a calming presence. Many therapists use music as part of their stress management toolkits.
However, listening to music can make things worse for some people. If someone is feeling overwhelmed or anxious, listening to loud or upbeat music can add to that feeling and make it harder to calm down.
Overall, though, music can be a great way to manage stress. It’s a personal activity that can be tailored to individual needs and has many potential benefits.
8. Guided Imagery
Guided imagery for meditation is a form of relaxation that uses your imagination to create images in your mind. It can help reduce stress, ease anxiety and promote healing.
When you focus on calming images, you can let go of intrusive thoughts and concerns. This allows you to focus on the present moment and achieve a state of deep relaxation.
9. Try Yoga
Yoga is an ancient practice that helps to improve physical and mental well-being. It involves a system of postures and breathing exercises that can help to relax and focus the mind.
The postures and movements help to release muscle tension, while deep breathing helps to calm and focus the mind. In addition, yoga can help to improve circulation and increase energy levels.
10. Enjoy Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a popular choice for people looking for a natural way to relieve stress. The main principle behind aromatherapy is that the scent of certain essential oils can have a calming and uplifting effect on the mind and body.
11. Find Ways to Reduce Triggers of Stress
Stress is a part of life, but that doesn’t mean we must accept it. Try these simple tips to avoid stress and be on your way to a less stressful life:
1. Limit exposure to triggers of stress. If a particular person, activity, or place is consistently stressful, try to avoid it or limit your exposure to it.
It also helps to identify your stressors and develop a plan to address them. Once you know what stresses you out, you can create a plan to deal with them more constructively.
2. Learn healthy coping strategies. Having unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol or overeating can make your stress worse in the long run. Try to find healthier ways to deal with stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and positive thinking.
3. Make time for relaxation and fun activities. It’s important to make time for activities that you enjoy and make you feel good. This can help reduce your overall stress levels and give you a break from your daily routine.
4. Manage your time and priorities. Time management is a key stress reducer. If you feel like you’re always rushing around and don’t have time for things that are important to you, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities.
5. Get enough sleep. When you’re tired, everything seems harder and more stressful. Make sure to get enough rest to deal with stress more effectively.
6. Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress because it releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Many people experience a significant improvement in their mood after doing some physical exercises.
Engaging in physical activities can greatly improve blood flow and the body’s ability to use oxygen. A healthy level of oxygen in the body and normal blood flow can positively affect the brain.
7. Connect with others. When stressed, you may find it easier to isolate yourself from your family and friends. However, isolation during stressful situations may not be ideal for coping with stress.
Social support can be a great way to reduce stress. Whether it’s spending time with friends and family or being part of a supportive community, social connections can help you feel less alone and stressed.
Human connection helps relieve stress as our bodies respond in ways that make us feel calmer. Social support balances our hormones and specifically increases the level of oxytocin. This hormone helps decrease anxiety levels and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system for more relaxed responses.
8. Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods helps your body deal with stress more effectively. Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
9. Take breaks during the day. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a few minutes to relax and rejuvenate. A relaxing break helps facilitate recovery. Even a short break can make a big difference in returning mental and psychical functions to their baseline.
Problem-focused vs. Emotion-focused Coping Stress Relief Strategies
There are two different ways that people typically deal with problems: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping.
Problem-focused coping involves taking direct action to solve the problem. For example, if you’re having difficulty completing a project at work, you might problem-focus by creating a realistic plan and timeline to get it done.
On the other hand, emotion-focused coping involves dealing with the emotions the problem is causing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the project at work, you might use emotion-focused coping strategies like taking a break to relax or talking to a friend about how you’re feeling.
Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, and people often use both types of coping depending on the situation.
Examples of Music/Sound for Stress Management
You can make music a part of your stress-reduction plan. It might help you feel calmer to listen to your favorite tunes while commuting to work. You can also take a relaxing break to listen to the following soothing sounds:
Listening to nature sounds can help relieve stress by increasing the parasympathetic response. The parasympathetic response is a major player in returning the body to a state of relaxation after stress. It helps slow the heart rate, promote blood flow, regulate breathing, and relieve muscle tension.
Solfeggio frequencies resonate with the body’s natural energy centers, or chakras, and help relieve negative energy and emotions.
Playing and listening to these frequencies can help remove blockages and restore balance. One study found that listening to a particular solfeggio frequency helped reduce participants’ stress and anxiety levels. Another study found that solfeggio frequencies may help to improve sleep quality.
Recent research confirms that listening to classical music relieves stress. That’s right - Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart are great for calming the nerves.
Studies have shown that classical music can help lower blood pressure and heart rate and reduce anxiety and feelings of depression. A 2018 study confirms that classical music lowers the stress hormone cortisol in the brain.
You can create binaural beats by playing two different frequencies in each ear. The resulting sound is a pulsing noise that some people find relaxing. Listening to binaural beats can help to change the brainwaves, leading to a reduction in stress levels.
The sound of ocean waves is normally quite calming and stress relieving. Ocean waves can help some people feel calmer, chilled out, and in control of their environment. For people with anxiety disorders or who are under a lot of stress, listening to the sound of waves can effectively manage their symptoms.
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