To say that stress is bad for humans is like saying the sky is blue. We all know stress is bad for us; this is not a mind-blowing realization of the 21st century. Despite this knowledge, however, 43% of adults still experience negative health effects from stress, including high blood pressure, migraines, skin conditions, asthma, sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety. 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace, and the resulting health conditions of chronic stress can cost thousands of dollars in medical bills over a lifetime. Ultimately, a chronically stressed person is an unhealthy person, because high levels of cortisol (the primary stress hormone) in the body can make one five times more likely to die from a cardiovascular condition [WebMD].
So we know stress is bad for us, but we don’t seem to be so good at de-stressing.
Many people turn to various vices as a coping mechanism for when stress overwhelms us. But are these stress reducing mechanisms actually helping us cope? For the most part, our vices (while, albeit, great temporary distractions) tend to be unhealthy and unhelpful in reducing stress. In fact, ironically enough, the things we use to cope with stress are often the very things that contribute to our stress.
If you feel constantly overwhelmed with stress, maybe it’s time for you to re-evaluate your stress-coping techniques. Even if you make one change, for example, switching from coffee to tea when you are tired and overworked, you will notice a positive difference in your health. So next time you are feeling particularly stressed out, try out one of these stress-coping techniques that are good for your body, mind, and soul.
Five Stress-Reducing Techniques:
- Exercise: This will stimulate endorphin production in your brain, improve your mood, and relieve bodily tension. Try 20 minutes of Yoga, or go on a walk next time you feel like pulling out your hair.
- Drink tea & water: Drinking tea has been shown to help lower the level of stress hormones after they have been released, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety faster. Staying hydrated is also crucial. Your body needs water to run properly, and even being a bit dehydrated can increase the level of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your body.
- Meditation: While meditation is a deep and complex practice, everybody can benefit from a bit of daily meditation. Come up with a personal meditation mantra, such as “I am smart, capable, and calm”, or “I can accomplish anything”. When you are feeling overwhelmed with stress: Stop, put your electronics on silent, turn off the lights, and repeat your mantra to yourself for 5 minutes. Also check out 3 Ways to Meditate During a Busy Day.
- Play with a pet: Petting a domestic animal elevates the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain, reduces cortisol levels, and lowers blood pressure. While pet owners reap a lot of health benefits by living with animals, simply going to a dog park or animal shelter and petting something cute for half an hour can do wonders for your stress.
- Snack on a relaxing food: Stress-eating is not just a psychological tick, it has scientific roots. Fortunately, if you eat the right foods there are also scientifically proven stress-reducing benefits. Check out this list of Five Foods to Help you Relax.
And when all else fails…
- Throw ice chunks: “Cody, WTF?” Oh yes, I’m completely serious. Sometimes life sucks, stress is leeching your well-being out of your pores, and you just feel…well…destructive. Rather than throw your phone at a wall (and I know it happens a lot) raid the freezer for some large ice chunks. Take the ice outside, hurl it at a wall, and watch it break into a million, glittering, satisfying pieces. Ahh… now tell me that doesn’t feel good.