When you are stressed, your body goes into what is called a “fight or flight” response to prepare to confront or avoid danger. Even day-to-day events can provoke a stress response, and can cause health problems, suppressed immune system, anxiety and depression. Yet not all stress is bad. When appropriately invoked, stress can help you rise to many challenges. There are a number of steps you can take to incorporate calm and live a less stressed lifestyle. Research shows, for example, that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help to decrease depression, reduce anxiety and improve overall mood.
Living in a big city, I have incorporated a number of easy to follow steps to help decrease some common stresses in my life:
1. Skip the Snooze
It is so tempting in the morning to get a little extra sleep, but it turns out hitting the snooze button is not worth it. Repeat snoozing makes no significant difference in your energy level throughout the day. However, if you are running late everything can be anxiety provoking. Avoid all this by waking up when you intend to and calmly go through your morning routine.
2. Reclaim Your Commute
A hectic morning can set the tone for the rest of your day. Barely missing your train, fighting to get a seat on the subway, stuck in traffic—with all of these commuting hassles you're gearing up to start your day on a negative note. Take back your commute with a simple re-frame. Rather than associating the beginning of your day with stress, do something that you enjoy. Listen to relaxing music or your favorite podcast; catch up on some reading or mediate to help you conquer your day.
3. Breathe Through It
Often when you are stressed you forget to breath. According to this Harvard study, connecting to your breath can help evoke relaxation responses. The first step to doing this is learning to breathe deeply into your stomach. Unlike shallow “chest breathing”, which limits the diaphragm’s range of motion and causes tension and anxiety, deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange, can slow down your heartbeat, stabilize blood pressure and reduce the physical sensations of stress. Use breathing to help you quiet your mind and refocus.
4. Stop & Smell The Roses
There is something calming about stopping and taking a short break in your day. Now, you do not literally have to stop and smell the roses, but there is an actually science behind this saying. The olfactory response is linked to the emotional center of your brain, which causes a flood of feelings with just a simple smell. Certain scents can also help us in other ways, from relieving stress to relieving a headache. Lavender, for example, can help induce sleep, pine can help reduce stress and citrus can help you to feel more energized. Learn more about how scents can positively impact your day.
5. Laugh More
Laughter can be the best medicine. It is no joke! Laughing can help you to manage stress and boost your immune system. When stressed the tendency is to isolate, which can cause us to ruminate on our stress and make the stress worse. The next time that you have a stressful day try not to be alone. Connect with friends mid-week for dinner and some laughs.
6. Take Action
The solution to stop stress is to understand and take action. Stress can come from a lack of control, so the more in control of a situation that you are, the less stress you will feel. Once you understand the root of your stress, you can determine your next steps and take direct action. Next time you are stressed, try t write out an action plan and notice your stress naturally begin to decrease.
If you are constantly under stress consider professional help. You do not have to live in stress; support is available. Contact Jamie Kreiter, LCSW here.
Want to find out more? Check out 20 Ways to Stop Stressing