There’s no escaping it – modern life is arguably more stressful than ever before. We may have more conveniences and the ability to connect than we had in the past, but they come at a cost – since we’re always connected, we don’t really have an opportunity to switch off.
Add to that are other factors that are certainly not limited to an increase in housing prices and costs of living, a higher unemployment rate, and long working hours. To say people are stressed is an understatement.
Unfortunately, stress impacts our health and, if not managed, can have far-reaching consequences.
How Stress Affects Your Health
Besides worrying about the things that cause you stress, stress can also affect your physical and mental well-being. Stress can cause changes in your mood and behavior and lead to physical illness.
We’ve all heard the term ‘I’m going to have a heart attack,’ which is often said in jest. But the truth is, high stress that’s not managed can cause serious health problems like stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
Often, people develop unhealthy coping methods to deal with stress, such as binge eating or abusing substances like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. These, too, can lead to health problems like the ones mentioned above, as well as diabetes and obesity.
Everyone is different, and so how our minds and bodies react differs, but common effects of stress include:
- Muscle pain or tension
- Stomach or abdominal issues
- Binge eating
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty focusing
- Feeling unmotivated or uninspired
How to Manage Your Stress
As if the trials of day-to-day life aren’t bad enough, the last thing you need to stress about is how your stress will impact your health. We’ve all been told not to stress or to manage our stress, but this can be overwhelming if you don’t know how.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage your stress that don’t require massive investments in time and money because, realistically, most people don’t have these in endless supply. Instead, view your stress management as a work in progress – something you must dedicate a little time to every week with some consistency.
Again, since everyone is wired differently, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan that you must follow to bring down your stress levels. We’ll explore some lifestyle changes you can integrate into your routine to positively impact your overall well-being.
Practise Deep Breathing
It may seem too simple to be effective, but taking deep breaths can help you to calm down. Taking deep breaths increases the oxygen in your lungs compared to when you breathe normally. In turn, your brain responds by reducing the number of stress hormones in your bloodstream, which helps you to focus better and think clearly.
Deep breathing is an easy exercise you can do anytime you feel stressed, but it’s helpful to build deep breathing into your daily routine to help manage your stress.
There are many deep breathing exercises of varying lengths, but if you’re looking for something quick and easy, you can start with the following:
- Take a deep breath through your nose
- Hold your breath in for three to five seconds
- Exhale slowly through your mouth
Practice this simple method for about 10 minutes a day. As you become acquainted with the routine and better at taking in deep breaths and holding them, you can increase the time you hold your breath.
Book a Retreat
Many different retreats are designed to help you manage your stress. Popular options include spas, mind-body-soul, wellness, and yoga retreats. The type of retreat you choose is up to you.
For example, a spa retreat may work wonders for you. Spending a few days at a spa retreat where you’re pampered may leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed, ready to tackle whatever the world throws at you.
Or perhaps your preference is a retreat where you are taught how to use healthy coping mechanisms to manage your stress or how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your routine so that you can handle the pressures when you return to normal life.
The type of retreat you choose is really up to what you enjoy and what you want to get out of it. It’s easy to find retreats by searching online. Before booking, read these retreat FAQs to learn more about what it is about and what you can expect to get out of it.
Connect with Loved Ones
As independent as you may be, spending time with the people you love can do wonders in helping you manage your stress. People who are isolated and live high-stress lives have a higher chance of suffering from anxiety and depression than people who have a strong network they can rely on.
Make time to connect with the people in your life. Simply talking on the phone with someone you care about can help to regulate your emotions and help you to feel calm after a stressful day.
If you don’t have a large network, consider doing activities that bring people together. This could include joining a club like a book club or playing a team sport. Committing to group activities forces you to interact with others and form friendships which are fantastic for your mental well-being.
Go for a Walk
Physical activity is essential for overall well-being, but it also plays a significant role in managing stress. When you exercise or play a sport, your body releases the feel-good hormone, endorphin, which improves your mood. With this, if you’re feeling stressed and workout, you’re likely to feel calmer.
Going for a walk is an excellent cardio activity with tremendous benefits for the heart and lungs, and when you’re in good health, you’re likely able to manage your stress more effectively.
Walking a few times a week also allows you to step outside and breathe fresh air, which is advantageous for people who spend most of their time couped indoors. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to go outside, take a few deep breaths, and take a quick walk.
On your walk, focus on your breathing and take in your surroundings. This will help clear your mind so that you return from your walk in a calmer state.
If not managed correctly, stress can have long-lasting effects on our physical and mental well-being and cause severe illnesses like heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. While it may be difficult to eliminate stress from your life, there are ways to manage and reduce it to help you live a healthy, balanced life.