It’s no secret that modern life is stressful. These days, global problems are adding another layer of stress to the already hectic load compiled from our jobs, family life, and fast-paced schedules.
In the New Year, however, let’s take the time to learn and adapt some stress management activities that will promote a healthier and happier lifestyle for years to come. Here are 5 ways you can manage stress today.
Have you ever heard of the “runner’s high” phenomenon? People who run for even a short distance often enough often report a brief, but deep sense of relaxation and euphoria when they finish up their workout. If you’re having a particularly stressed or anxious day, adding some gradually intensifying exercise to your routine may be just what you need to shake some of the worries away.
So what is the science behind runner’s high? Well, when you run or complete a similar type of exercise, your brain releases a flood of endorphins to your body. Endorphins are a peptide, or neurological chemical, produced in the brain that acts on the opiate receptors in your body, lessening its pain and enhancing its pleasure response. While your body releases considerably more endorphins during intense exercise, even a brisk walk will get these chemicals flowing. So, even if you’re not at a point where you can exercise enough to experience runner’s high, every little bit of physical activity can help activate your endorphins and reduce stress.
Quick tip: How can you implement this tip to reduce stress today? Start by taking a 30 minute walk after work or during your lunch break. Make this a consistent (maybe even daily) routine. You’ll be surprised how much lighter you’ll feel when you return to work or to your home.
As it turns out, the advice your doctor always gives you about eating well and exercising to take care of your physical health also applies to your emotional and mental health. Eating a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins will not only keep your body functioning well, but it will also help you manage your stress.
Eating healthy helps reduce oxidation and promote a balanced inflammatory response in the body, which will also reduce cortisol, or stress hormone, levels. So, swap that drive thru run out for a chopped salad and some nuts for lunch today, and really take the time to step away from your desk to enjoy it. Your afternoon will feel much more manageable.
Meditation is a relaxation technique that has gained quite a bit of popularity recently. Rooted in ancient Taoist and Buddhist traditions, meditation can help people of all and no faiths to recenter their minds and better manage their stress. This is because regular meditation practice boosts the production of the BDNF protein in the brain, which improves cell health, neuroplasticity, and may reduce the effects of aging and stress.
Quick tip: To meditate, all you need is a quiet, comfortable space and a designated amount of time. Start today by taking just 5 minutes to meditate before or after work. Tomorrow, go for 6. You’ll be feeling more clear headed and calm in no time.
If there’s one thing that doesn’t make stress any easier to deal with, it’s sleep deprivation. Any situation seems much worse when you’re only running on three or four hours of sleep. Following a regular sleep routine helps to regulate hormone levels in the body–including stress hormones like cortisol. So, prioritize going to bed earlier tonight, and make that a regular goal.
Quick tip: You can even use the “health” function on your iPhone to remind you when it’s time for bed in order to meet your sleep goal. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider using some lavender essential oil or taking some melatonin tonight to help get you back on track.
Before you head to bed, though, take some time to get organized so that tomorrow starts on the right foot. Make sure your outfit is ready to go, pre-pack your lunch and work bag as much as you can, and create a to-do list that clearly lays out your most important tasks for tomorrow. Scientifically speaking, making lists actually frees up space in your brain so that your mind can focus on other things–whether that be tomorrow’s important projects or falling asleep tonight.
While life may feel extraordinarily hectic this year, prioritizing these 5 ways to manage stress today will help restore some peace to your day.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She’s passionate about providing wellness and CBD education in a clear and accessible way. Before Joy Organics, she worked as a travel writer and photographer.