Everybody gets stressed at one point or another, and everybody has different reasons for being stressed. It’s virtually impossible to avoid being stressed, as a Gallup poll carried out late last year that revealed just 4% of American’s felt they had never been stressed showed.
If you can’t avoid it – and short of moving to a desert island where the pressures of life are absolutely non-existent, that seems unlikely – then the next best thing is learning how to deal with it.
Thankfully, there are quite a few coping mechanisms that can help you deal with most stressful situations. For starters, here are six tips for dealing with stress.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and refined sugars
Many of us turn to caffeine to keep us awake or alcohol and nicotine to help us cope in stressful situations. None of these substances is particularly helpful for dealing with stress. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants so will actually increase your stress levels rather than reducing them while alcohol may give us a temporary feeling of elation or a boost, but ultimately it is a depressant which means that it is far more likely to make you feel even worse than we did before hitting the bottle.
If you are feeling stressed, swap caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for water or natural drinks such as fruit juice and herbal teas. These will keep your brain hydrated which will help keep you awake and alert just as caffeine does but without the negative impact of a stimulant.
Refined sugars are particularly bad for stress levels due to the energy crashes they can be responsible for which can make you tired, irritable and angry. More than two-thirds of the refined sugar used in the United States is found in processed food, so by cutting out cheaply manufactured food produce in favor of fresh produce, you’ll be helping to cut your stress levels.
Take part in physical activity
Our ancestors from thousands of years ago used to have to fight to survive and that has left modern day man with hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals are released into the body in stressful situations in order to provoke the fight or flight response , which was designed to protect us from harm when we were under threat.
The stresses of modern day life such as a work deadline or trying to host the perfect Thanksgiving meal don’t require a fight or flight response, so how do you deal when your body releases adrenaline and cortisol into your system? Exercise is one way to do so. It can help to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and return your body to a calmer state.
If you are feeling stressed, then go for a brisk walk in the fresh air to relieve it. If you want to help manage stress before it has even hit, then regular physical activity can do the trick as well as improving your sleep. Which moves us nicely onto…
Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep and stress are a vicious circle. You need to get a good night’s sleep to feel less tired and as a result less stressed, yet if you are stressed, you may struggle to sleep as thoughts and worries continue to swirl around your head when you are trying to drift off.
There are a several ways in which you can help yourself get the recommended seven to nine hours sleep a night that an adults over the age of 26 need. Stopping doing mentally demanding work a few hours before going to bed will allow your brain time to unwind and switch off while you should also avoid anything containing caffeine before hitting the pillow.
A warm bath or reading fiction can help relax your body and take your mind off the stresses of everyday life that might be keeping you awake. You should also try and stick to a regular bedtime. If your body knows that come 11pm every day you’ll be switching off, then it will adapt and be prepared to shut down at that time each night, in turn helping you get to sleep.
Supplement your diet with natural remedies to help you relax
We’ve already covered the fight or flight response and what that does for stress levels – so how did our ancestors cope with stress? In ancient times, herbal remedies would have been used to help reduce anxiety and depression which can lead to high-stress levels.
These answers still exist today. Some herbal remedies you may want to consider to combat stress are Ashwagandha which one study showed reduced stress by 44%, Rhodiola who’s properties include energy enhancement and improving mood, valerian root which can help with insomnia and nervousness and cannabidiol which helps manage anxiety.
Keep a diary
Writing “Dear diary…” entries when you are stressed probably sounds like a pretty accurate description of hell, but it can be an extremely beneficial tool when it comes to managing stress. By noting down the time and place when you underwent a stressful episode, you’ll have a record to look back at and work out if any similarities are linking the times you are stressed.
You could discover that it is happening in the run-up to performing a specific weekly chore or when you come across a certain individual. By working out certain scenarios that are making you stressed, you can either avoid them completely in the future or if that isn’t just isn’t possible, try and come up with ways to cope when faced with them.
Often, we put ourselves under additional stress because we can’t say no. Whether it be to that extra shift at work or helping out a neighbor, taking on extra responsibilities is extra stress – especially if you already lead a hectic lifestyle with far too much crammed in.
It’s difficult to say no, especially when we feel like we may be letting a friend or relative down. It is something we all have to learn to do though. Learning to say no to requests that you don’t think are important or are simply ones that you can’t or don’t want to fulfill will help you deal with stress.
Author’s bio: Maggie Hammond is a retired nurse and freelance writer, exploring and writing in the U.S. in retirement. An advocate for public health and nursing qualifications, she feels passionate about raising awareness of the current strain on public health organizations. Email: maggiehamm