Stress is something that affects us all. Chronic stress is long-term stress that goes unimpeded over a long period of time. The fear, flight or fight response is on for an extended time and adrenaline is pumping constantly. This places fatigue on the kidneys and the body’s entire system. Many diseases are stress related; in fact, some experts estimate that up to 80% of all disease is stress related.
Stress is a key cause of many small and big health problems, including hypertension, headaches, insomnia, skin conditions, diabetes, depression, and anxiety just to name a few. Knowing that stress has such an impact on our health, it is important to take steps to combat it to whatever extent we can.
Here are five everyday skills that help you defuse some of your stress levels and keep you that much healthier and happier.
Regular exercise is known to boost your immunity, improve heart health and blood circulation, increase the amount of oxygen coming in through the lungs and lower stress. It can also elevate mood as happiness endorphins are released during exercise. A workout of low to moderate intensity can increase your vitality, reduce pain, and improve your sleep. Exercise helps relieve some of the tension associated with chronic stress.
Eating well is an essential part of reducing stress. Too much fat, red meat, carbohydrates, and sugar in the diet put stress on the heart and the arteries. Chronic stress has been connected to the storage of fat around the middle. To help reduce stress through diet, here is what you should be eating: A minimum of five, and up to ten portions of leafy greens and other vegetables and fruits each day; a small amount of lean meat, chicken or fish; a small amount of whole grains, or legumes (beans and lentils); nuts and seeds.
Learn how to relax all your muscles; you can start at your head and work your way to your toes. Clench one muscle group for a few seconds, and then release. Move on to the next muscle group and repeat. As you relax, the stress response is turned off and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, aiding your digestion and your ability to experience peace and inner quiet.
Mindfulness is the art of focusing on the present moment. Instead of worrying on the future or obsessing over the past, try focusing your mind on experiencing the present moment. One way to do this is to become aware of your different senses: Listen to the sounds outside your window, feel the touch of your clothes on your skin, smell the aromas of your food, appreciate the colors around you, and notice the tastes of foods when you eat.
A good night’s sleep will allow your body a deep and nourishing rest to heal itself; without good sleep stress is exacerbated. To sleep well, avoid caffeine and other stimulants so that you can get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Turn all technology off an hour before you turn off the lights. Also, turn the lights down for a while before you actually go to sleep. Use your relaxation skills to help you fall into a deeper sleep.
With these easy, everyday skills under your belt, you are well equipped to combat stress. If you combine them all into your daily routine, you will undoubtedly see a reduction in your stress levels and an increase in your happiness levels.
Exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, mindfulness, and good sleep are key elements in your health and well-being and are essential skills to have in your stress reduction toolkit.