An even deeper connection can be found between stress and health - research found that those on healthy fat diets, even though these healthy fats were meant to lower inflammation, did not work when the person was stressed. Stressed people eating a healthy fat diet had the same rise in inflammation as those eating non-healthy fats! Maybe it isn't JUST about your diet!!!
So, how do we get rid of it? We don't. Stress is an inherent factor in our daily lives. We cannot escape it, we cannot reduce it (although you will hear tons of people say just that!). But, we can learn how to manage it and control it's effects on us. Let's take a look at some ways to reduce our reaction to stress and reduce the toxicity of stress on our bodies and minds.
Disconnect and Unplug
We live in an overstimulated world - from the moment we wake up and check our social media/email to the moment we go to bed after watching TV. Our senses are overwhelmed by color, sound, information, sadness/happiness, flavors, touch and MORE. We need to unplug, we need to reduce our overload and we need to find time throughout the day to stop and focus - shutting down a little to savor ONE single thing at a time.
I recently mentioned that all of our devices have a "do not disturb" mode. Use it. Set it to 6:30pm until 8:30am. It can be difficult to resist the ping of messages or emails but if you don't hear it, you won't be faced with it. Shut off your devices early in the evening and vow to NOT CHECK them again until some set time in the AM. And please, don't wake up and immediately start surfing. Research shows that those with unlimited access to email and social media have more daily stress than those who only check 5 times a day. Begin timing your online time and setting boundaries like no eating and surfing, no surfing until 8:30am and exchange these excessive times online with healthier choices - like say - art, exercise, meditation! You will be amazed how much time is freed up by reducing your online time : )
Exercise is a great outlet for stress but the right kind of exercise is crucial. Exercise that melds breath, movement and mindfulness will help you feel more relaxed and calmer than a really tough, sweaty kickboxing workout. There is always a time and place for tough, sweaty workouts but balance them with other more mindful activities like yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong. These mindful practices help you balance your mind and body - bringing a sense of peace and stillness to the chaos around you and reducing cortisol.
Art is a GREAT way to handle stress! In a recent research project, 3/4 of adults who engaged in 45 minutes of art (clay, painting, coloring) experienced a drop in cortisol, the hormone that increases when stressed. Any skill level, any art can help you refocus and breath deeper. This is another mindful activity that reduces your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, settles your mind and allows your breath to deepen. Take a few moments each day to engage in some form of art and reap the benefits of stress management as well as creating something fun. Doodle, paint, draw, mold with clay. Find your inner child and enjoy the greater focus and creativity throughout the rest of your day!
Take a walk, take a short work break outside, smell the flowers, enjoy the sun and breath deeply. Nature is soothing and will help your body relax and reduce it's stress response. If you can, try working outside or open a window with a nature view and enjoy the fresh air, the sensory experience, the greater sense of freedom. Time spent outside is not only healthier but can also recenter you helping you find better alternatives to stressors.
Let's certainly NOT forget the value of meditation in reducing the bodies reaction to stress. Mindfulness and meditation practices help you focus on the moment, regulate your breathing - deepening it, and bringing more satisfaction to your life right now. Higher levels of satisfaction lead to less stress response.
Meditation can also help you change your perspective - seeing some activities you once thought stressful as less so. Meditation can help you look at your stressors and step back - viewing them from a safe distance - allowing you to handle them with less reactionary responses and more thoughtfulness. Finally, meditation can help you find stillness in a chaotic world. Meditation is grounding and peaceful, so if you feel as if the world is overwhelming, meditation can help you settle and take time to come back to balance.
Meditation can do a lot to help you handle stress and I cannot emphasize enough that a meditation practice can truly change your response to stress. I personally have seen dramatic results in my life going from very reactionary and angry responses to more "it's going to be okay and what can we do to make this work" responses.
If you are not sure where to start - you can checkout my YouTube channel here for meditation and yoga (new content uploaded every Friday and accessible to everyone for FREE):
You can also checkout www.headspace.com, www.buddhify.com and www.downdogapp.com for more meditation and yoga options.
More articles on how to handle stress better:
If you want more information on what stress does to your brain and body, checkout these links: