One of the deadliest killers in America is silent and ubiquitous, and not the obvious suspect: stress. Stress, to a certain extent, is inevitable. Everyone experiences stressors in their day-to-day lives. However, high levels of stress over extended periods of time are cause for concern. According to a 2015 survey from the American Psychological Association (APA), adults reported that stress negatively impacted their mental and physical health. Chronic stress can result in major health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, disrupted sleep, heart conditions, depression, and anxiety.
Fortunately, while it may be impossible to eliminate stress entirely, it can be managed. What you do to manage your stress will depend, in large part, on its severity, but whether you are dealing with everyday stress or a chronic anxiety disorder, managing your stress should be a top priority. For many, it isn’t; the APA’s Stress in America survey found that while many adults report doing enough to manage their stress, few actually do. About half (49 percent) of adults reported engaging in stress management activities a few times a month, but an alarming 18 percent (one in five) reported never actively partaking in stress relief activities.
Although every person handles stress differently and on an individual basis, it is important that you find what works for you and take an active role in your mental and physical wellbeing. Here are some general tips to combat stress in your everyday life. If you try all of these methods and feel that none of them are working, it may be time to find a therapist in your area. There is absolutely no shame in turning to professional help to manage your stress.
Make sure you set aside time in your schedule, no matter how busy you are, for some “me time.” Maybe you like to unwind with music, or a book, or a warm bubble bath- whatever it is, carve out time for it. There are also a variety of products available that are designed to help you relax such as bath salts, essential oils, heat wraps, and stress balls. Cannabis has proven stress reduction properties, and there are many hemp oil products that can be used to relieve stress.
Meditation is not for everyone and you may feel silly doing it at first, but thanks to apps and YouTube videos, it’s easy! At the most basic level, meditation is simply being completely present- focusing only on positive thoughts or something simple like your breathing pattern, and letting go of distracting thoughts. According to psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, research suggests that meditation alters the brain’s neural pathways to make it more resilient to stress.
For a lot of people, it’s difficult to find the joy in exercise. If that’s the case for you, then it’s time to stop thinking of exercise as a chore and find a form of physical activity that you enjoy. Maybe that’s swimming laps in the pool. Maybe it’s taking a yoga class with friends. Or maybe it’s dancing to your favorite songs. All forms of exercise helps release endorphins in the brain that contribute to positive thoughts and reduced stress.
Remember to take deep breaths. It’s the simplest thing you can do to manage stress, but also one of the most effective. Take a few minutes to actually focus on your breathing. Our breaths and heart rates tend to quicken when we’re stressed, so deep, measured breathing will counteract those stress-induced effects.