Most people have heard that stress kills. Most know that stress plays a big role in heart disease and stroke. And many understand the connection of stress to weight gain, which adds to both stress and heart disease.
Fewer know that stress has also been linked to increased risk of the common cold, slower healing, depression, stomach ulcers and related digestive conditions, cancer, immune system disorders, even back and neck pain. And one study even found that stress is a factor in 80% of industrial accidents.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), stress accounts for about 75% of doctor visits. Clearly, reducing stress is good for our health. But how can we reduce stress? Here are 21 simple things anyone can do to reduce stress.
21 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress
Managing stress in this fast-paced world today can be tough. Today, we are connected to the outside world in ways like never before. Everything from constant entertainment, 24/7 news, email, cell phones, and even social media adds to our levels of stress.
With the mounting daily pressures of life, some may believe that lowering stress is impossible. It is not. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are 21 simple things anyone can do to reduce stress.
Set Boundaries/Know When to Say No
Learning how to set boundaries includes knowing when to say no. Research indicates that many with high stress try to do more than they should. If something is not your problem or you simply do not have time for it, learn to say no. There is nothing wrong with turning someone down if doing the task will cause undue stress on you.
Have a No-email Time
Email seems to run the lives of many. For some, checking emails consumes an inordinate portion of their day. This leads to added pressure trying to get everything else done. Learn to have a time of day wherein no email is checked. Do not worry, the messages will be there when your no-email time is over, but your stress will be reduced. Less stress permits greater productivity.
Have a Cellphone-Free Space
Every home should have a cellphone-free space. It could be the dinner table (which is perfect) or the bedroom. Wherever it is, just agree with the family that there will be no cellphones there. This will provide a place of peace in the home, a sort of sanctuary from the outside world.
Follow a Schedule or Routine
A routine may seem boring to some, but anathema to stress is routine. By adopting a set schedule for all that needs to be done, productivity will increase and stress will decline.
Turn Off all Electronics Half-hour before Bed
Recent research found that keeping our eyes glued to electronic devices kept our minds engaged long after we go to bed. This results in getting less rest and feeling sluggish the following day. By unplugging just a half-hour before bed, our mind can adjust to what is next and get the rest it needs. This will lower stress.
Limit Daily News Intake
The news is often only bad news. Bad news, even if it is not directly impacting us, can have a depressive effect on our mental health. Some recommend restricting our dose of daily news to less than a half-hour each day. This will help us remain more positive and mentally-balanced, which helps lower stress.
Have and Spend Time with a Pet
Pets are friendly and furry (well, most of them). Regardless, a pet offers us several things that lower stress including unconditional love. Petting a dog, stroking a cat, or even watching fish swim around all help calm and soothe us. After a long stressful day, this can be just the thing the doctor ordered.
Deep Breathing and Yoga
Taking just a few minutes out of each day to engage in deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can yield enormous benefits by drastically reducing stress. And doing so need not be complicated. While sitting at your desk at work, close your eyes then breath in through your nose and out through your mouth deeply and slowly. Doing so for just a few minutes will be enough to calm your brain and body. This will even provide a productivity boost.
Listen to Calming Music
Music calms the wild beast goes the saying. In fact, calming music can soothe us as well and increase levels of dopamine in our brain. This chemical is responsible for providing feelings of pleasure and reward. This chemical not only helps us feel better but helps our brain process better as well.
Hug, Cuddle, and Kiss
Hugging, cuddling, kissing, and similar activities have been found to greatly decrease stress in people. We are social creatures and when we engage in these activities, dopamine is released in even greater quantities than music. In addition, a hug or simply a gentle touch provides comfort to both the receiver and the giver.
Live in the Moment
Living it the moment seems to be difficult today. We all spend so much time multitasking that we often find it hard to live in the moment. Living in the moment simply means taking a few minutes to focus on a single behavior like enjoying the air on your face while walking or the taste of an orange. It means shutting out all external stimuli for a few moments a day just to enjoy one thing and one thing only.
Do Not Procrastinate
Procrastination leads to missed deadlines and feelings of self-doubt. These make it even harder to get things done, which leads to more of the same. Over time, procrastinating can become a shameful habit. As the shame increases, so too does stress. So, do not procrastinate. Do what must be done when it must be done.
One of the staples of Reader’s Digest magazine was Laughter is the Best Medicine. In the short column, the magazine would carry funny stories and for decades, it was one of the most beloved features. Since then, researchers have found that indeed, a good laugh can have enormous curative benefits. Too stressed? Why not check out some old Pink Panther videos on YouTube or read some jokes? Laughter will help lower your stress.
Make Time for Family and Friends
In our fast-paced lives, we often fail to make adequate time for family and friends. But something as simple has visiting on the patio on a Friday night, enjoying a chat over tea, or playing a round of cards will reap enormous rewards when it comes to our health.
Strange as it may sound, chewing gum can lower stress. Just be sure to choose sugar-free gum if using this trick often, otherwise obesity could become a stressor.
Maintain a Gratitude Journal
A Harvard study found that those who maintain a gratitude journal were happier and more productive. Naturally, this led to lower stress levels as well. It need not be complicated; just write one thing a day to be grateful for and watch this simple technique improve your life. It works.
While a good cup o joe each morning is fine (and a must for some), too much caffeine can cause jittery nerves and increase blood pressure. Reducing caffeine intake to just one or two cups of coffee a day will work wonders with stress.
Burn Scented Candles
Filling the air with pleasant aromas is one of the simplest things we can do to lower stress in our lives. Just be sure to pick a pleasant scent, something enjoyed by all.
There are herbal supplements that some take to ease stress. While most of these are reasonably safe, caution should still be exercised.
Exercise does more than simply help us get and stay in shape. Regular exercise helps with mood and focus. Working out increases endorphins in the brain and is a form of meditation because one must focus on the exercise performed. It will increase energy and optimism while eliminating anxiety and feelings of depression.
Stop Smoking/Avoid Alcohol
Nicotine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. Ironically, neither is beneficial to stress. Instead, both add to stress levels because both cause increased blood pressure, muscle tension, and a reduction of oxygen to the body and brain. The belief in smoking cigarettes for stress is a myth; really, just the opposite is true.
While there are many other things anyone can do to, these 21 stress-reducers are simple and can be applied by anyone. We hope they help you lower your stress levels.
Talk to Your Kymera PCP About Reducing Stress
Naturally, if you are considering supplements or exercise, you should consult with your Kymera Primary Care Physician before doing so. Some supplements may not interact well with other medications you take and you want to be sure a certain exercise program will be safe for you. If you need to stop smoking, we can help.
Talking to your doctor about better managing stress is part of managing your overall health. If you do not have a primary care provider or are considering making a change, feel free to request an appointment. We will be happy to help you reduce stress or discuss any other health concerns you may have.