8 WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS

Ahhhh stress. 2020's hottest buzzword. (Just kidding - leaning toward "coronacoaster.") 

For the last few years, and especially in the last few months, it seems like everyone is stressed. And not just stressed by themselves, but more stressed out than YOU. You see, unlike YOUR problems, they have bills to pay and families to feed and appointments to make and things to do and places to be and people to see - and even though you might have the same things on your list, it doesn't matter because they're busier than you and people expect more from them and in the competition of "who is more stressed out" they WIN.

Seriously, when did stress become a competition?

One could make the argument that competitive stress has always been around. Thousands and thousands of years ago, it was a good thing to be more stressed out than your fellow tribe member, because the stronger your fight or flight response (which stemmed from a stressor), the more likely you were to survive. The higher your stress response --> more adrenaline --> the faster you could run away from the mountain lion or rival tribe.

The fight or flight response is still very much a thing, and we need some stress to survive! We need stressors to keep us alert at night on a deserted street. We need stressors to help us jump out of the way of moving cars or receive bad news or protect your body from further injury or to fall in love or start a new job.

Fleeting, momentary stress is well and good - and needed. Chronic stress takes a major toll on health, physically and mentally.

Read on for what stress does to your body, and 8 ways to reduce your stress levels.


STRESS AND YOUR BODY

Chronic stress affects every part of your body. It starts with your central nervous system, which triggers your "fight or flight." Then your brain triggers your hypothalamus to alert your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase your heart rate and send blood pumping through your body. Your heart will also pump faster in order to distribute oxygen-rich blood to your body and your blood pressure will raise. Your liver will produce extra glucose (blood sugar) to give you a boost of energy. Muscles tense up in order to protect themselves from injury. Your immune system activates to help you avoid infections and heal wounds.

If your central nervous system does not return to normal, or if your stress-levels are being consistently raised, all of these systems will persist, and may cause:

  • over/under eating
  • anxiety
  • substance abuse
  • stroke
  • heart attacks
  • digestive issues
  • chronic pain/body aches
  • irregular periods
  • erectile dysfunction
Stress is certainly not a competition you want to win.

REDUCING STRESS

To reduce stress, we must activate our parasympathetic nervous system - also known as "rest and digest." The PNS essentially reverses everything that activates during fight or flight, but sometimes our body doesn't activate it enough - especially in our intense world of chronic stress. Therefore to ensure that we're truly out of fight or flight, we have to turn it on ourselves! Luckily this is simple to do. See below for 10 easy ways to reduce stress.

Participate in a calming activity, like meditation, restorative yoga, or tai chi // Most of us need to actively activate our parasympathetic nervous system. This means we have to consciously decide to breathe slower and declutter our minds. Just 5-10 minutes a day can help you do this subconsciously whenever you get stressed out.

Make your bed // Ok, if you're in your 20s, you should be making your bed every single day! This will not only help your overall environment become more relaxing, but it helps you feel accomplished as you start your morning. There's something so soothing about climbing into bed and undoing your covers. 

Organize/clean your environment // A cluttered room is a cluttered mind! Even taking 3-5 minutes every day to organize your desk, make your bed, put dirty laundry away, etc. will help declutter your mind and make you feel more at ease as you work.

Plan your schedule // There's nothing worse to me that not knowing what's coming up next. I put EVERYTHING on my calendar, including self-care. I treat that meeting like I would getting tea with the Queen - non-negotiable. Every day at 5pm I take a break and work out! Setting aside that hour is a game-changer.

Prioritize tasks // Or at least list them all out. This again helps me know what to expect during the day and what needs to get done. Seeing the words on my to-do list helps me visualize everything I'm doing, plan out my schedule, and not get anxious about the day ahead.

Delegate items // If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed, it is more than fine to delegate items. That's it, that's the explanation.

Get some sunshine // Vitamin D is scientifically proven to reduce stress. Getting outside in nature and feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin is a natural way to ground your anxieties, and can be a beautiful way to practice meditation on your own. *Breathe in and list everything you hear,* *breathe out and list everything you feel on your skin.* Rinse, repeat. 

Find a way to laugh // It's true that laughter is the best medicine - true even for stress! A good way to make yourself laugh is to pretend like you're laughing. Soon, you'll actually be laughing. 

Honorable mentions include: calling a friend, throwing a dance party in your room, taking a break from your phone, and eating some delicious and healthy food. 

It's important to find ways to reduce stress for a happier and healthier life. Our days on this Earth are numbered, why do we spend them stressing out about every little thing? :)

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