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Stress Awareness Month: Stress Less with these Tips

Whether it’s job stress, issues with your family or balancing life in general, stress can affect your body, leading to manifestations in both mental and physical ways. Stress can lead to headaches, sleep issues/insomnia, muscle pain, fatigue, and even chest pain. The physical symptoms often emerge from mental strain of stress in your daily life. For example, if your mind races and has a hard time shutting off at night, it leads to issues with getting a good night’s sleep, which in turn causes more stress. When not properly dealt with, daily stress can also lead to anxiety and depression.

Stress Less with these 5 Simple Techniques

  1. Dedicate time to physical activity. Even just 20 minutes of daily low-impact exercise will mediate your stress. Walking, swimming, biking, and running increase your body’s production of endorphins, which leads to an improved mental state and mood. If cardio isn’t your thing, consider yoga or pilates. Yoga uses deep breathing to move through stretching exercises. By focusing on your breath, in conjunction with physical movements, yoga helps both your mind and body release daily stressors.
  2. Make an effort to practice relaxation techniques. While yoga is a great way to combine exercise and meditation, there are less strenuous ways to include mental release into your daily life. Deep breathing exercises allow your brain to concentrate on counting along with your inhale and exhale of breath, which results in allowing your mind to let go of the issues causing the stress. Consider scheduling breathing exercises throughout the day to ensure you are not holding on to stressful thoughts. Additionally, there are many free apps and YouTube videos that provide guided meditation. By listening and following along with a guide, your brain is given the freedom to change its focus and concentrate on letting go of issues that cause stress.
  3. Set aside time for yourself. Making time for the things that make you happy are so often overlooked in our busy world. Societal pressure on prioritizing work and professional commitments may take a toll on your well-being. Whether its watching TV, reading a book, going to the beach, grabbing a coffee, or meeting friends for dinner, everyone needs to take breaks to do things they enjoy. Scheduling activities in advance will give you time to make the room in your schedule; however, it’s important to keep the commitment to yourself. Don’t forgo downtime for more work, it will only lead to increased stress overall. Your body and deserves time to downshift.
  4. Consider your diet and eating habits. It should be no surprise that caffeine and sugar consumption can increase mental and physical stress symptoms. Try to cut back on caffeine by limiting intake to the first part of the day. Caffeine in the late afternoon and evening can lead to sleep problems. Refined sugar may seem to appease your mood in the moment, but sugar intake will result in a crash, which can boost stress hormones. Limiting sugar as much as possible represents the best way to proceed. Look to replace sugary snacks with whole foods such as fruit, veggies, yogurt, nuts, or cheese.
  5. Ask for help. If stress is ruling your life and you can’t catch a break, you may want to consider counseling. Professional counselors can work with you to identify coping mechanisms and other ways to reduce feelings of stress. Horizon Health Services offers private counseling services. Call (716) 831-1800 today.