Work. Family. School. Home. Health. Finances. Your children. Your parents. Your partner. The list goes on for the things that can cause stress, which can raise our risk of heart disease, make us more susceptible to colds and flu and to cancer, to name a few.
While there are many techniques people use to relieve their stress, here are a few that are tried and true.
- Massage. This one is my favorite. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage can “control stress, increase immunity, boost mental health and wellness, manage pain and improve physical fitness.” Book your massage today, be sure to enjoy it and feel your stress melt away.
- Meditation. For some, finding the time to sit in silence can itself be a reason to stress. But all you need is about 15 or 20 minutes each day to sit quietly, contemplate your thoughts, and focus on your breathing. This is a technique that may be difficult for some, but there are apps available to help get you started. One that was recommended to me is called Stop, Breathe and Think. It’s customizable and free.
- Get some zees. Sleep helps to repair your body from the day and ready it for another. Without the proper amount of sleep (this number varies depending on one’s age, but the general recommendation is about eight hours per night) you can experience “lowered immunity, heart problems, and feelings of anxiety and depression,” according to Everyday Health. So, stay away from caffeine after your morning jolt; avoid sleep-disturbing technology in your bedroom at night; and make your bedroom a stressfree haven.
- Get moving. Warmer weather is all the reason any of us needs to get up and get out. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Practice yoga or tai chi. Anything that gets your blood circulating and your heart rate up can have a positive effect on your stress by producing endorphins, the “feel good brain chemical.” Also, exercise begets more exercise: a bonus!
- Improve your diet. Most of us who work at a desk have experienced a mid-afternoon sugar craving. But if we give into that craving regularly, the sugar can have a counter-intuitive effect, making us lethargic and less able to handle stress. So, instead of that 3:00 candy bar or can of sugary soda, instead choose fruits or vegetables that not only have fiber (to make us feel fuller for longer stretches of time) but that also contain antioxidants that boost the immune system.
- Cut yourself some slack. “…look at your mistakes or failures with kindness and understanding — without harsh criticism or defensiveness. Studies show that people who are self-compassionate are happier, more optimistic, and less anxious and depressed,” according to an article in Harvard Business Review.
It’s easy to get weighed down by stress and other things that may affect us negatively. But if we step back for a moment, take stock of what we have and make deliberate changes to our lifestyles, then we stand a chance to minimize the stress in our own lives and can help to encourage others to do the same.
Lauren B. Schiffman is Director of Communications for Century Health Systems, the parent company of the Natick Visiting Nurse Association and Distinguished Care Options