6 ways to reduce chronic stress
When your child is cranky or you're running late ; when the report you've worked on all day suddenly disappears off your desktop or you're stuck in a traffic jam you experience stress. Stress is a normal part of life and a part of our body's way of helping us respond to critical situations.
However when you experience extreme or chronic stress those same mechanisms can take their toll and cause a host of emotional and physiological problems.
1. Know complications
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) details some of the physical and mental problems that can be caused by chronic stress. Physically a person can experience symptoms like muscle aches and pains high blood pressure insomnia and more sicknesses from a weakened immune system.
Chronic stress can also contribute to heart disease and obesity as people attempt to alleviate stress by turning to comfort foods the APA explained. Other possible complications include depression and anxiety. Sadness inability to focus irritability and fatigue are also caused by chronic stress as well as a higher likelihood of becoming addicted to drugs.
Unfortunately we can't always remove the source of our stress. However there are certain coping behaviors and strategies that we can use to help us reduce the uncomfortable feelings and physiological effects of stress.
2. Set limits
According to the APA it's important to limit yourself to the tasks activities and obligations that you can handle. Determine what's necessary for your survival and what's not and cut back on the non-essential. Reach out to your supervisors community partners and others to let them know that you need to reduce your involvement. Delegate responsibilities to others request help from family members and then commit to not accept more responsibilities.
3. Get better sleep
Chronic stress can rob you of your much-needed sleep by keeping you up worrying or not letting you relax. The APA suggested changing your sleep habits to allow your body to decompress before trying to sleep. A couple of hours before your scheduled bedtime start doing relaxing activities like reading a book taking a bath listening to music or meditation. Avoid television using your computer or smartphone in bed or right before bed.
If you find yourself up with worries write them down and assure yourself that you can tackle them in the morning after you've had a full night's rest.
4. Try belly breathing
Harvard Medical School described one of the most powerful tools for restoring your body after a stress response. Belly breathing deep breathing or abdominal breathing regulates our heart rate improves the oxygenation of the blood and releases tension in the body. Best of all it can be done wherever you are whenever you need it.
Start by sitting or laying down if possible and take a deep breath through your nose until your chest is full and your belly expands then exhale. While Harvard noted that individuals should doing this exercise for 10-20 minutes a day eventually adding other relaxing techniques. You should begin to feel relaxing effects after just a few breaths.
5. Do one thing
When we're stressed it's hard to add more new activities to help us reduce stress the APA noted. They encourage people to do just one thing to improve their health and it can be as simple as reducing caffeine intake. Take a walk or do some yoga poses or stretches — something to stimulate endorphins in the brain.
6. Get professional help
A professional can coach you through your stress by tailoring strategies to your stressors and your personality. Don't wait until your health and quality of life suffer to get a psychologist's help.
There are many people with chronic stress in our fast-paced achievement-oriented society so if you're struggling know that you aren't alone. Take steps today to improve your mental and physical health and break the cycle.