Stress is an unavoidable part of life. From work demands to family obligations, it can sometimes feel like we’re constantly under pressure. While a little stress can help motivate and push us to perform, too much stress over an extended period can take a real toll on both our mental and physical health. Managing and reducing stress should be a priority for everyone. Here are six science-backed strategies for keeping stress under control.
1. Practice Relaxation Techniques
One of the fastest ways to induce a relaxation response in the body is through techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. Deep breathing realigns the stress response by slowing down heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Progressive muscle relaxation involves systematically tensing and relaxing muscle groups to release tension. Meditation trains the mind to stay focused on the present moment rather than dwell on stressful thoughts. Taking just 10-15 minutes a day to practice these techniques can help calm the mind and body to manage stress.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to lower stress long term. Exercise releases endorphins which boost mood while also burning away the stress hormone cortisol. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity like brisk walking 5 days per week. Or break it up into short 10-minute bursts. Even gentle yoga poses and stretching can relax tense muscles and ease anxiety. Moving your body regularly buffers against the effects of daily stressors.
3. Give Cold Plunging a Try
Cold water immersion, or “cold plunging,” has become a popular way to shock the body’s system and reduce stress levels. The cold temperature of the water activates the sympathetic nervous system, releasing a rush of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. While this initially raises heart rate and blood pressure, it is shortly followed by lowered heart rate and feelings of deep relaxation. Regular cold water plunging may help re-set the stress response and boost mood through the release of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals. You can find out more about the practice and its benefits on websites like Cold Plunge Facts.
4. Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is the body’s natural mechanism for recovering from stress. But when you’re chronically stressed, it can be hard to get consistent, high-quality sleep. Prioritize good sleep hygiene by keeping a consistent bedtime routine, limiting screen time before bed, and creating an optimal sleep environment that’s cool, dark and quiet. Consider supplements like magnesium, glycine, and CBD oil which can promote relaxation. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night allows the body to recharge and resets the stress response system.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
Often, we stress ourselves out by demanding too much of our time and energy or setting perfectionistic standards. Practice saying no to unnecessary obligations. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. Avoid comparisons with others on social media and give yourself credit for doing your best. Forgive small mistakes and keep perspective on what’s really important. By easing pressure on yourself, you’ll take control over stress-inducing feelings of inadequacy or disappointment.
6. Find Healthy Stress Relief
Bottling up stress can make it worse, so find an outlet to healthily release tension. Talk to a supportive friend or family member. Write in a journal to process worried thoughts. Opt for stress management strategies like therapy, mindfulness courses, massage, acupuncture, art classes or time in nature. Having constructive ways to express stress prevents it from building up inside. Keep a list of healthy stress relief options you can turn to when you need an outlet.
With consistency, the strategies above will help avoid the unhealthy effects of chronic stress, leading to better mental and physical wellbeing.