As someone who has suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life, I’m no stranger to stress, which used to be a major trigger for my anxiety. Learning to manage my anxiety and my triggers has forced my stress levels to plummet, which has been a boon for my mental health.
This didn’t happen overnight; it took time and effort to learn how to navigate the stresses of life without letting them consume me. If you suffer from stress that feels insurmountable, it’s important to know that you can find ways to manage your stress and not let it manage you.
How often have you, or even someone you know said, “I’m just so stressed”? Is it monthly? Weekly? Daily? According to a Gallup poll, 40 percent of Americans deal with stress frequently, with 36 percent stating they only feel stress sometimes. Stress can result from a variety of things such as work, family, or finances, to name a few, but there are easy ways to reduce stress and make it little bit more manageable.
Make Simple Home Adjustments
Reducing the stress in your home doesn’t have to involve an elaborate or expensive plan such as installing your own personal spa. Simple tasks such as decluttering your home or a new paint color could significantly reduce stress levels. For me, it was ruthless prioritizing and using a paper calendar (here are 10 planner recommendations straights from creative entrepreneurs) to mark down everything for the month. Not only was I able to cut out the minor stuff that was weighing me down, but I am now able to have an overview of the whole month so that nothing gets missed.
According to a study conducted on behalf of the Huffington Post, 81 percent of men and 87 percent of women stated they experienced anxiety and stress over home upkeep, with the main home-related stress trigger being clutter. Furthermore, of those that reported being stressed about home organization, 70 percent reported being stressed daily or almost every day in the past month, compared to 35 percent of those who were not stressed about home clutter. Decluttering your home might seem like a large feat, but it can be manageable by implementing daily routines or breaking up the cleaning in small chunks and assigning tasks to each family member.
Choosing a new wall color is another simple way to promote relaxation. We recently painted our bedroom a subtle blue-gray and it has made a huge difference in our sleep, plus our bedroom now feels like a relaxation sanctuary. According to the Global Healing Center, color has a psychological effect on mood and affects you subconsciously, emotionally, and physically. If you decide you want a color change to induce feelings of calm, opt for hues known to reduce stress such as yellow, green, blue, or violet. Visit your local paint store and pick a color that positively affects your mood.
Exercise to Reduce Stress
Exercising is a great way to keep your body fit and shed excess weight, but it is also a great tool to manage and reduce stress by producing brain chemicals, improving mood, and serving as a distraction. I saw an immediate improvement when I took over the dog-walking duties for our family. It became my time to be with my thoughts, and it was forced exercise. As the weather improved, I started adding a little bit of jogging, which then became running. And now my dog and I have a daily run and I have a great outlet for shrugging off my stresses for the day.
According to the Mayo Clinic, any form of physical activity, regardless of the intensity, increases your brain’s production of feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. Your mood takes a positive hit as well, as regular exercise increases self-confidence, lowers symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, and improves sleep (it’s certainly a better alternative to addictive sleeping pills). You may notice that after an exercise session, you’ve completely forgotten about the day’s stress, and were instead focused on the task in front of you. Exercise can help you focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and mood boost can help you remain calm and relaxed in the areas of your life that have been causing stress.
Improve Diet to Feel Better
During times of stress and anxiety, you may find that you are quick to turn to comfort foods such as ice cream, pizza, or chocolate, but according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, consuming these foods could be making you feel lethargic and less able to handle stress. Instead of reaching for the Rocky Road, turn to foods that are high in fiber and carbohydrate-rich such as baked sweet potatoes or sautéed veggies. Scientists believe carbohydrates cause the brain to produce more serotonin, which is a hormone that promotes relaxation, so make sure you are consuming complex carbohydrates rather than processed carbs.
If you are tempted to reach for a cup of tea or coffee to relax and reduce anxiety, keep in mind that caffeine stays in your system for a long period of time, making it hard to sleep and giving you that jittery feeling. Opt for caffeine-free options to get the soothing effect without the negative side effects.
Reducing the stress in your life doesn’t have to be difficult. Small changes can make a world of difference. And don’t think you have to rush the process. Don’t make yourself stress over lowering your stress! It took me months to finally get the hang of effectively managing my stress, but it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done, and I know it can help you, too. Just take it one day at a time and know that you are doing your best.