Stress has become so much a part of our life that a majority of our health problems can now be attributed to it. Chronic stress can, in fact, affect our mental and physical well- being, raising blood pressure and risk of heart disease, affecting sleep and causing headaches and mood swings, and reducing our work efficiency.
While we can’t completely avoid stress, there are several stress-busting techniques that we can employ to reduce its impact. Try these everyday measures to bring stress under control:
1. Remove clutter
Most of us are practically lost in the clutter in our lives, which adds to our stress. The first among the Zen principles of design for creating stress-free living spaces is Kanso, which stands for the elimination of clutter. Take time to remove clutter, going from room to room, and putting in order different areas of operation, which in itself can be stress-busting activity. The idea behind de-cluttering is that when you eliminate what doesn’t really matter, you are making room for things that do matter.
Go through the junk accumulated over the years and sell or donate some stuff. Label and pack away things that you cannot bring yourself to discard. When you get unnecessary things out of the way and keep items of regular use at hand by arranging them on easily accessible hooks and shelves, your daily routine will run much smoother.
Clutter in life can apply to not only physical things but to our thoughts and ideas. If you have too many interests, be it hobbies or projects taken up and left half way, they can also add to your mental stress. Sort them out, focusing on a few feasible ones and discarding the others. Have a workable routine planned out for the weekdays, and maybe another one for weekends. Assign a specific slot for every activity, but allow some slack for unexpected events.
2. Record your priorities
Managing a home, work, and relationships can cause us to end up with more work than we can possibly do in the limited time available. This can be extremely stressful. Prioritizing tasks is necessary when there’s a lot to be done.
Knowing in your head, what are more important than others, is not enough. Putting them in black and white––with pen and paper or electronically––in the order of their importance or urgency is the key here. Listing out your priorities makes it easier to get them done methodically and more efficiently. Even more importantly, you can actually feel your stress levels coming down as you tick them off one by one.
3. Delegate some of the work
Taking on too many responsibilities at a time can overwhelm you at times. Multitasking is a major cause of stress as you spread yourself too thin, trying to be in many places at the same time. Delegating some work to others may rob you of your sense of satisfaction, but it will conserve your time and energy.
Division of labor is a beautiful concept as long as everybody gets a fair deal. This can be particularly effective in the home front, where work can be assigned to all family members according to each person’s capacity. Sometimes it may be much easier to do things yourself than get someone else to do it, especially in the case of inexperienced or reluctant delegates. However, resist the temptation to pitch in; things will get better by and by.
4. Take an electronic holiday occasionally
We are almost always hooked on to our electronic gadgets that they seem like extensions of our body. In this ‘connected world’ we live, it is a luxury to be disconnected even for a few moments, but make it a point to do it every now and then. Fix a time to go offline for an hour or more every day or at least once a week. You’ll be surprised at how well these little breaks reduce stress.
5. Practice meditation
Meditation is a proven way to reduce stress. We tend to think that doing something is always better than doing nothing. That’s not true. A state of solitude and tranquility often helps us reach into our innate well of creativity. Don’t think it’s just wasting time.
Learn meditation techniques from a yoga guru or other experienced persons. Practice it every day to achieve ‘inner peace,’ which is a stress-free mental state. Proper technique and practice can help you snatch a few moments of meditation even in the middle of a hectic work day.
6. Include stress busting foods in the diet
We usually think of stress as mentally taxing, but rarely consider that it is also metabolically taxing to the body. The hormones produced in response to our stress put our body in overdrive with regard to heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. The various chemicals produced during this process quickly deplete our mineral and vitamin stores. Needless to say, nutritional support is important in combating stress and its effects on the body.
Eat more of leafy greens and other foods rich in Zinc and Magnesium and fish, nuts, and seeds that provide omega 3 fatty acids. B complex vitamins are also important; if you can’t get enough of them from food, consider taking a supplement.
There are certain herbs that are particularly useful in combating stress. Generally known as adaptogens, these herbs can be taken as supplements. Ashwagandha, licorice, and maca are a few of the adaptogens you can take regularly.
7. Spend time with your children or pets
It may sound brash to use children and pets as tools for stress relief when they actually deserve your time and attention, but when you are overstressed, a few moments with them can act as a potent stress buster. The main reason is that they demand––and get––our full attention, so we are forced to leave behind our other concerns.
If you sometimes feel that you are too tied up to spend a few minutes with your child or a pet, take it as a danger signal; it’s time you took a step back and had a hard look at what you’ve got yourself into. Many of us try to be overachievers, but at what cost? Stress can cut your life short as well as any disease.
8. Spend some time with nature
When you consider the evolutionary timescale of man, you can see that nature was our home until very recently. Not surprisingly, nature still has a calming effect on our body and mind. However, we find ourselves spending very little time with nature as we rush through the day because we all obviously have “promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.”
Taking a walk in the woods––or even in the garden––can reduce stress. Step out of your office every few hours to breathe some fresh air and feel the breeze on your face. A piece of nature brought indoors, in the form of a dish garden on your desk or aesthetically arranged houseplants in the common areas, also act as stress busters.
9. Take an exercise break
When we are stressed out, our muscles are in a constant state of tension because stress triggers the fight or flight response. Muscles are kept in readiness for action, even though the stressful situation we’re facing may not require any physical action. Persistent tension eventually weakens the muscles and may cause a condition known as anxiety muscle fatigue.
Do stretching exercises and breathing exercises every few hours to relieve the tension in the muscles. These short breaks can go a long way in bringing down stress levels.
10. Make time for fun and laughter
Laughter is the best medicine for stress. Find a way to have some occasion or other for a hearty laugh every single day. It is not important what makes you laugh as long as it works; even funny animal videos will do. Or call up your friend from high school and talk about the good old times. Anything that will make you laugh is good medicine.
11. Take a warm bath
Just thinking about a warm relaxing bath can probably bring down stress levels, so imagine what it can do at the end of the day to your stressed out body and mind. To get deep muscle relaxation, keep the temperature of the water as high as you can bear. Add a handful of Epsom salts to the bath (here’s why). Soft music playing in the background or listening to audiobooks can enhance the de-stressing effect.
You can even try a bit of aromatherapy by mixing in a few drops of the essential oil of lavender or chamomile with the salt before adding it to the tub. Alternatively, you can use the essential oil in a candle or a diffuser. A warm bath before bed can even help with good night’s sleep.
Read Next: 12 Essential Oil Elixirs To Add To Your Bath
Last, but not the least, sleep is probably the most efficient stress buster there is. But sleep and stress have a reciprocal relationship; while sleep can reduce stress, stress can actually cause sleeplessness. In fact, stress is a leading cause of insomnia. That’s because of the stress hormones that strive to keep us awake in the face of perceived danger.
Well, if sleep doesn’t come to you because you’re overstressed, you need to take active measures to get enough of it. Engage in relaxing activities towards the evening to bring down the cortisol levels. Light dinner, warm bath, gentle music, and reading in bed, all may gradually put you in the mood for sleep. Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and supplement it with a power nap in the afternoon, if you can.