Have you ever been running late for an important meeting only to find yourself stuck in a traffic jam? Or you ask the kids to do their chores for the millionth time, but they’re still not done? Or maybe you find yourself quarantined to your house for the foreseeable future?
Stress comes in all forms.
When we’re stressed, our body thinks it’s under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode. Our brains release a surge of chemicals like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine to help us survive the perceived attack. This reaction is what’s helped us survive for so long, and it’s what helps some people react well in an emergency situation.
The problem is that many of us are in that ‘fight or flight’ state too often in our daily lives. Stress levels in America are continuing to rise under normal circumstances, let alone during a pandemic. And prolonged exposure to these stress chemicals can have adverse effects on our health.
Excess cortisol, in particular, is a chemical that many experts believe to be linked to heart disease, digestive problems, and weight gain, among other diseases. While fine in moderation, stress hormones aren’t something we want pumping through our bodies in excess.
Luckily, there are a few stress-relieving tactics you can do anywhere that are quick, easy, and effective. So, the next time you feel yourself clenching up into a stress ball, try one of these:
1. Take a deep breath
It may sound cliché, but deep breathing slows your heart rate and can lower blood pressure. Repeated deep breaths will naturally bring your heart rate more in sync with your breath. This leads your brain to release endorphins, which are chemicals that have a natural calming effect.
We all know that laughing makes us feel good, so the next time you’re stressed, try watching a funny video or listen to your favorite comedian. Not only does laughing release endorphins, but it also lowers cortisol levels.
3. Turn on some music
Research has shown that listening to relaxing music can lower heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety. But if a soundtrack of nature sounds isn’t your thing, blaring some rock music or singing can also help release some stress.
4. Go for a walk
Walking has been shown to not only be good for brain health in general, but it can also help reduce stress. But it’s not just walking that can have this effect – any form of exercise will release endorphins. If you’re in a situation where exercising isn’t feasible, try some seated yoga with deep breathing.
5. Ground yourself
Grounding is a way to help bring yourself back into your physical body, which can be helpful when your mind is running a mile a minute. One grounding technique is called the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise.
Start by noticing 5 things you see in the room. Then notice 4 things you can feel. Next, 3 things you can hear. Then note 2 things you can smell, and lastly, give yourself 1 positive affirmation. Take as long as you’d like with this and repeat as many times as you’d like.
Remember, stress is a very manageable issue with many different treatment options, so it’s just a matter of finding the option that will work best for you.
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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, April 21). “Chronic stress puts your health at risk.” Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
Moninger, Jeannette. (2017, December 10). 10 Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#2
Norgaard, Jennie. (2016, April 6). “5,4,3,2,1 Method to Reduce Anxiety.” Retrieved from http://www.hope-therapy-center.com/single-post/2016/04/06/54321-Method-to-Reduce-Anxiety