More stressed than usual? You aren’t alone.
According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey released in February 2017 called “Stressed in America,” stress is on the rise. The APA identified sources of stress, including the political climate, personal safety, police violence toward minorities, and acts of terrorism. Let’s face it, many of us stress about other things too, such as money, a job, school, health issues, parenting, and relationships.
10 Ways to Reduce Stress
Although stress can be unpleasant and feel overwhelming, there are things you can do to reduce stress. If you want more information on any of these stress reducers, just follow the links.
Drink more water.
Sound too easy? Well it’s this simple: Dehydration increases the level of stress hormones, like cortisol, in the body. The higher the cortisol, the more likely you will feel stressed. By drinking enough water, not only do you reduce the physical stress on your body incurred by dehydration, but you also help flush out toxins and increase energy levels. Read more.
Give or get a hug from someone you love (furry friends count too!).
Hugging can have a tremendously positive impact. It can increase our sense of connection and being loved, it helps us slow down, and hugging simultaneously lowers cortisol levels and increases oxytocin (the love hormone). Next time you feel stressed, ask for a hug and take a moment to really soak it up. Read more.
Take a break at least once a day to slow down.
Find somewhere quiet to sit, feet on the floor, back straight but not rigid, eyes closed. Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth for one minute. Loosely focus on your breathing, and when you notice your attention wandering, no problem, just bring your focus back to the breath.
Have a good laugh.
Laugher releases endorphins, which are natural stress fighters, in the brain. It also stimulates the heart, lungs, and abdomen, releases tension, and momentarily eases our suffering. So put on a favorite comedy, read the Sunday comics, or reminisce about a funny experience you had and let the belly laughter do its magic. Read more.
‘Name it to tame it.’
Author and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel coined this phrase. He hypothesizes that when we think of words to describe an emotional state, we shift brain function away from the “fight or flight” response in the limbic brain toward logic and reasoning in the prefrontal cortex. This allows us to step outside of the emotion and observe it rather than be controlled by it. Read more.
Come to your senses.
Stop whatever you are doing and take a moment to tune in to your immediate surroundings. What do you hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? See? How does your body feel? Hone your focus to just one of your senses and take a moment to fully engage in what you notice in the moment.
A daily brisk walk.
Exercise can combat stress and improve overall well-being. Look at your schedule and see where you might be able to fit in 20 minutes for a walk. Make it a priority. Research has proven that daily low-impact aerobic exercise has many benefits, including: a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, improved heart and overall body health, and improved self-esteem. Want to kick it up a notch? Practice a mindfulness exercise while walking. For example, as you walk, notice all the sounds you hear or focus on breathing in rhythm to your step.
Improve vagus nerve tone.
The Vagus nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Why is this important? Because the parasympathetic nervous system is the one that helps you calm down after a frightening or stressful experience. The higher your vagal nerve tone, the faster you can calm down after stress. Research has shown that slowing down your breathing, splashing cold water on your face, hugging, and vocal-cord toning (time to start singing in the shower) can help to improve vagal nerve tone. Read more.
Turn down the noise.
Stay informed and connected, but limit your exposure to the news and social media. Particularly avoid taking in stimulating or stressful input when it’s close to bedtime. Speaking of which…
Practice good sleep hygiene.
Good sleep what? Hygiene, meaning keep a regular bedtime and wakeup time. About a half hour before bed, start to quiet the mind by turning off the TV and other electronic devices. Maybe even take a bath or drink a cup of hot tea.
Help is available.
If you are struggling with stress and would like to talk to someone, schedule an appointment with a mental health counselor – it’s free for FRCC students! Go here for details at your FRCC campus. If you need assistance elsewhere, contact your primary care provider or county mental health agency.