We’re so excited to bring you this guest post on 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Keep Your Stress Levels Down from Anita Fernandes and the editors at EverydayHealth.com.
We know that stress is part of the human condition and inescapable reality of modern life. While some amount of stress is normal, it’s important to not get overwhelmed or things can quickly spiral out of control.
High-stress levels are also linked to physical ailments like hypertension, heart disease, and so on. Fortunately, with a little help, you can easily keep those stress levels down.
Here are 10 tips to help you get a grip on stress.
The Do’s & Don’ts of Effective Stress Management
1. Reassess Your Goals
If you feel like stress is getting the better of you and your life is spiraling out of control, it’s time to step on the brakes. Take some time off to reassess your goals. If you’re ambitious and have lofty goals, you don’t even need to abandon them – just but be more realistic.
Break them down into parts, setting achievable goals so that you are not completely overwhelmed. Achieving these smaller and individual goals will help raise your confidence, making you feel good and lowering stress levels.
2. Be Social
It really doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. As social animals, we all need some human contact and companionship to varying degrees. Staying social doesn’t mean that you have to start attending parties and making new friends if you don’t want to, but it means staying in touch and spending more time with loved ones.
3. Practice Mindfulness
There’s no better way to increase your resilience towards stress than with mindfulness meditation. Meditation is widely recognized as one of the most effective strategies to lower stress levels and cultivate mindfulness.
With mindfulness, you develop greater self-awareness, respond more calmly to stressors, and can consciously control your emotions and responses to those emotions. You can get started with the help of guided meditation at home, using apps or online videos, or you could enroll for Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs in a clinical setting.
4. Stay Active
Aside from the fact that physical activity boosts fitness levels and makes you feel better about yourself and your body, it also has a direct impact on stress response.
Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are ‘feel-good’ hormones that can lower stress levels and feelings of anxiety or depression. Whether it’s brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, or weight training, any physical activity will yield mental health benefits, improving your ability to cope with stress.
5. Use a Planner
There’s a reason why so many psychologists and counselors advise their patients to use journals and planners. The very act of jotting down tasks and chores helps give you clarity, allowing you to prioritize tasks and plan better. Good time management makes you feel more in control of your time, while poor time management does the exact opposite, increasing the sense of chaos, and causing stress.
6. DON’T Skip the Breaks
Whether your stress is triggered by work at home or the office, it can seem counterproductive to take a break. After all, there’s so much to be done and so little time. Despite what you might think, taking some downtime to relax is essential, as it gives your body and mind a chance to recover from stress.
This not only helps lower stress temporarily, but it also boosts performance as studies clearly demonstrate that adequate rest is necessary for optimal cognitive function. So, the next time you consider skipping a break or canceling a vacation, think again.
7. DON’T Look for Relief in a Bottle
Yes, alcohol may be a fun way to unwind on occasion, but it’s not a coping strategy for everyday stress. Using alcohol as a stress-reduction tool actually creates an association that can lead to alcohol dependence and addiction. Studies show that high alcohol intake can actually alter your brain chemistry, making it harder to cope with stressful situations.
8. DON’T Compare Yourself to Others
It’s normal to experience feelings of envy and dissatisfaction occasionally, but it’s a serious problem when these feelings start to overwhelm you.
Unfortunately, social media has fueled an epidemic of self-loathing and dissatisfaction as we keep comparing ourselves to others. Success and happiness don’t come in a one-size-fits-all formula, so don’t be fooled or feel pressured by what you see.
9. DON’T Procrastinate
When you’re stressed and anxious, you may often feel like you just want to escape from reality and not have to deal with everything that’s on your plate.
While it’s important to take some time off every now and then, it doesn’t help to run away from your responsibilities. Procrastinating actually increases feelings of anxiety and stress as it delays the inevitable and gives you less time to plan and tackle any challenges.
10. DON’T Burn the Midnight Oil
Sacrificing sleep does significant damage, impairing your body’s ability to cope with stress. It does not just sleep deprivation that is harmful however, as working late into the night also messes with your circadian rhythm.
Research suggests that such disruption of circadian rhythm on a regular basis increases vulnerability to a variety of stress disorders, including anxiety and depression.