Do you know how much stress can wreak havoc on your mental and physical well being? High amounts of stress increase the cortisol levels in the body. Negative effects from having a constant and heightened state of cortisol includes an increased risk of heart disease, higher blood pressure, anxiety, weakened immune system, nerve problems and digestive issues.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), stress is the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century”.
It’s possible that you’ve gone so long with high levels of stress that you may not even recognize how your body and mind have been effected.
People are more rushed, stressed, overweight and depressed then ever before. However, If you’ve been suffering from prolonged stress it doesn’t have to be this way anymore!
Here are 5 Solutions to your question, What are the Way to Reduce Stress?
Stay Active Outdoors
This one is first on my list because I do believe being active outdoors is the #1 way to combat stress. Spending time outdoors enjoying nature is one of the most basic ways to help you to reduce your stress level and boost your immune system.
Where are you likely to enjoy exercise, on a treadmill in a crowded gym or hiking on a beautiful train in a State park? Vigorous exercise helps your brain to release endorphins which are natural painkillers.
Exercising on a regular basis, whether it’s every day or 2-3 times per week will encourage your brain to release those endorphins on a regular basis which can help to improve your mood.
Also, working out helps to lower the stress hormones (like cortisol) in your body. This release of endorphins combined with a reduction of stress hormones increases the feelings of being calm and in control of your life.
Also, the outdoors provides a huge variety of activities & sports to engage in vs. the gym. Here are some ideas & different activities that will keep you active outdoors.
Now, we covered the benefits of being active- but why is the outdoors great for Stress?
First, you get natural lighting rather than artificial fluorescent lighting from gyms.. Natural light from the sun increases our levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D can help prevent cancer, obesity, inflammation and helps to build the immune system.
The sights and sounds of nature are soothing and healthy for us compared to those of the City. Towering trees, green grass/meadows, and flowing streams are healing, give us inspiration and allow our minds to just relax and enjoy the beauty. Concrete, commuting, and crowds can definitely cause a surge in stress and anxiety. Nature is easy on our senses compared to the City Scene.
I know this all too well. For 3 years, I used to work in Downtown Phx and would commute an average of 500 hours a year. Being in the car, then in a fluorescent box all day, and being surrounded by a concrete jungle it was very difficult to ever feel relaxed. My body and soul was screaming to get out of there every single day.
In case meditation is a new concept for you, it’s simply a way to help people focus your attention and achieve a heightened state of awareness.
This involves sitting in a relaxed position, clearing your mind of negativity and focusing on your breath or on a sound like “ooommm”. The goal is to get your mind to stop following every new thought that pops up.
Meditation can result in a shift of consciousness and has been shown to have health benefits. One of course being that it reduces stress!
The body’s response to stress can cause the body to react in ways that prepare you to fight or flight (run). In extreme danger, this is helpful of course. However, prolonged states of stress causes physical damage to the body (as noted above).
Meditation takes a pro-active approach to stress- this practice triggers the body’s relaxation response and restores the body to a calm state. This aids the body in healing itself and repairing the damage from the physical effects of stress.
With deep breathing, you can activate your sympathetic nervous system which controls your body’s response to a perceived threat. Your breath is a powerful way to ease stress and make you feel less anxious.
Breathing is an automatic function that is controlled by the respiratory center of the brain. When we are feeling stressed, our breathing patterns and rate change as part of the “fight-or-flight” response.
Someone who is anxious will take small & shallow breaths and will not use their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This kind of breathing interrupts the balance of gases in the body.
A few easy breathing exercises can make a big difference if you make them part of your regular routine.
Before you get started on your breathing exercises, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose the best location where it’s quiet. This could be your living room, bedroom or in your comfortable office chair.
- Try to do the breathing exercises the same time once or twice a day.
- Wear comfortable clothes.
Many breathing exercises take only a few minutes. When you have more time, you can do them for 10 minutes or more to get even greater benefits.
Here is a breathing exercise:
With this technique, you’ll learn how to take bigger breaths from your abdomen (your stomach is part of your abdomen).
- Start by getting comfortable. Lie on your back in bed or on the floor with a pillow under your head and knees. Or, sit in a chair that has solid support for your shoulders, head, and neck.
- Breathe in through your nose. Let your abdomen fill with air.
- Breathe out through your nose.
- Place one hand on your stomach and place the other hand on your chest.
- On the in breath, feel your stomach rise. On the out breath, feel your stomach lower. The hand on your stomach should move more than the one that’s on your chest.
- Take three more full, deep breaths. Breathe fully into your tummy as it rises and falls with your breath.
Get Together with Friends
Life is more fun when you can share it with other people! Friends can provide a great outlet for stress relief! One of the ways is through laughter. If you are have good friends, then there’s no doubt that you joke and have fun. Laughing is very good for you; it improves mood, reduces anxiety, and even boosts your immune system.
Research has shown that when you laugh, endorphins are released into your brain. As noted earlier, these feel good hormones drastically reduce stress.
Studies have indicated that people with strong social ties are less likely to be depressed and have lower amount of cardiovascular diseases than people with fewer friends.
Researchers found that people with solid friend relationships had significantly lower levels of stress. This in turn keeps their immune system healthy and reduces the mental and physical symptoms of stress.
Talking to people you trust is also a great outlet for stress. If you keep stuff bottled up inside and have no one to talk to you, it can be like a volcano. Eventually, the volcano erupts because of too much pressure. This is when people have nervous breakdowns!
So as you go through those difficult times in your life, friends can help you tremendously!
Finally, with friendships or close personal relationships with loved ones, physical touch also provides another avenue for stress relief. A Study from, PLoS One found that hugging relieves negative emotions like stress. Love is a powerful way to counteract stress and anxiety.
Now for the last one, Yeah, easy for you to say -some of you might be thinking! This actually has been one of the most profound, yet difficult lessons for me to learn & implement. The idea is to “feel” positive, wealthy, etc (fill in your blank), even if it’s not your current reality.
When we are negative- the universe brings us more negativity. The body and mind are one- they are intertwined. Due to this, Negative emotions that start in our mind can be very detrimental on our body. Stress being one of them.
Through gratitude- you are countering the stressors in your life and focusing on the positive instead. Practicing gratitude (being thankful for wha you already have) involves focusing on the positive even in the face of negative events.
You can see the good in difficult people and appreciate what you have even when you’re facing a loss.
If being positive doesn’t always come natural to you, there’s great news! Gratitude can be cultivated with practice. The brain is a muscle and can be strengthened towards a positive mindset if you work at it.
This helps you to see your stressors in a new light. Perhaps you faced a job loss and now you don’t know what to do. By looking at the positive- you could get a fresh new start. Maybe you transition into a different career and do something you’ve always wanted to do.
Of course if you need something right away due to your financial state, you can work your day job and then make a very clear plan and set goals to get the career/business of your dreams.
You can accomplish being more grateful through gentle reminders. When you notice yourself griping about a negative event or situation in your life- right away think of 4 or 5 related things for which you are grateful. For instance, If you are having trouble with a sibling- think of other family relationships that ARE working.
What are the Ways to Reduce Stress Summary
You don’t have to live your life being anxious anymore! As you can see, there are a number of ways to reduce stress. Being active outdoors gives you great exercise in nature which releases those feel good hormones. The by product of exercising is that you will also stay in shape of course!
Meditation will bring you a sense of peace and bring your awareness to the present moment to help you focus. Deep breathing will reduce the fight or flight response helping to keep you in a calm state of mind.
Enjoying friendships will help you to remain happy and provide laughter which also increases endorphins in your brain.
Finally, being grateful every day lessens the focus you have on the negative and will help keep you positive! Remember- you attract what you are!
Have other ways to reduce stress that I didn’t mention? Thoughts on what I did share with you? Would love to hear your comments!