All of us experience stress in some form and some stress is actually a good thing. In small doses motivates us to reach goals, boosts memory and kicks in our flight or fight response, protecting us from danger. It enables us to run when someone is chasing us or hop out of the way of an oncoming car. It’s also thought that a little stress can boost heart function and boost the immune system.
On the other hand, chronic stress is damaging to our bodies. It can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, weight gain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal disease and even heart disease.
Chronic stress can feel like a familiar part of our lives. Often times we don’t even realize we’re stressed. Typical signs include:
• Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
• Get sick more often with colds
• Body aches
• Other illnesses like autoimmune diseases flare up
• Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake
• Changes in appetite
• More angry or anxious than usual
So how can you ease symptoms of stress? You can choose foods that manage stress, and no, I’m not talking about doughnuts, mac and cheese or other traditional comfort foods. Many healthy foods boost immunity, ease stress and lift our mood. Check out my previous blog on Got Stress? for foods that soothe.
Some easy ways to manage stress that work almost immediately:
Breathing – Take a slow, deep breath inhaling through your nose and feel your belly expand. Slowly release the breath, exhaling through your mouth. Do 10 of these breaths for almost instant calm.
Take a Break – Step away from your stressor for a few minutes. If you are able, leave and take a 10 or 15 minute walk. Can’t leave? Close your eyes for a few minutes and take a mental vacation.
Exercise – Physical activity is beneficial for both the mind and the body. The endorphins that are produced can last for several hours, leaving us happier and more relaxed.
Meditate – Meditation can promote feelings of calm and clarity. Find it hard to quiet your mind? Try progressive relaxation, consciously relax each part of your body, beginning at your toes and ending at the top of your head.
Yoga – You don’t need to be super flexible to do a few calming poses. Here’s a sequence to bust anxiety that you can do in your chair.
Manage Your Time – Make a plan or schedule of your priorities and focus on getting those done. Let go of things you are able to delegate and say no to non-urgent requests. Not interested in attending an event? Just say “no, thank you.”
Making time for relaxation and activities that make you happy can go a long way to reducing stress.
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