In the United States today, stress is one of the leading causes of mental health issues and symptoms. In fact, The American Institute of Stress reports that 73% of people experience psychological symptoms as a result of stress and 77% of people even experience physical symptoms. The top causes of stress include work-related pressure, financial issues, illnesses and health-related problems, relationship troubles (friends, family, significant others), nutritional deficiencies, the overuse of media (television, social media, internet, etc), and lack of sufficient sleep. With all of these reasons in mind, it is no surprise that 48% of people report that stress has negatively impacted both their personal and professional lives. In order to maintain mental health and wellness, stress management is absolutely essential in the modern world. Read this list of five natural and healthy ways to combat stress in daily life.1. Eat Healthy Foods - When balancing a busy schedule, eating healthy foods can seem impossible, as many people are constantly on the go. Many people turn to quick meals from fast food establishments or restaurants because they do not have time to cook or they are trying to squeeze in a quick meal. Unfortunately, the truth is healthy options are greatly limited and the portion sizes are often much too large for a single person. Additionally, in moments of great stress, the body naturally tends to often crave fatty, calorie-rich foods as a means of coping. However, eating unhealthy foods and not keeping to a regular, balanced eating schedule not only leads to unwanted weight gain, but it can also negatively affect stress levels, creating more stress for the future. Eating healthy, nutritious foods gives the body the nutrients it needs to function at optimal performance, thereby reducing and/or eliminating various symptoms of stress.
Planning is the key to eating regularly and healthily when you are faced with a hectic schedule. In fact, actually scheduling time for yourself to prepare meals is a great way to be prepared for moments when you have limited time so you do not turn to fast food or other unhealthy options. On your day off or whenever you have some time, plan your food for the week by preparing meals you can place in the freezer, easily accessible for the rest of the week. Allow yourself time to go to the grocery store to fill your home with healthy foods so you do not have the same temptations to stop for quick foods, even if it means scheduling time to go. Healthy eating will help you function better overall and your body will thank you for it.2. Meditate - One of the easiest, most efficient ways of calming the mind and body is regular meditation. Meditation has been known to improve focus, calm anxiety, and increase mindfulness, leading to peace of mind and better productivity and creativity. When meditating, the person’s focus shifts to deep breathing, working wonders to facilitate relaxation and peace. The external world is quieted and the person has an opportunity to regain connection within the body. Even ten minutes of meditating an change a person’s mood, making the stresses of everyday seem much more manageable. Do you feel uncomfortable meditating in silence alone? Try guided meditations! There are many recordings available with calming music and gentle voices to guide people through their meditation and to help assist in the relaxation process. They are available for purchase and download online. There are also free meditations available on certain websites including YouTube to try as well. If you cannot find a quiet space within your home to take time to meditate, many yoga studios, community centers, and gyms offer meditation sessions, where you are able to step into a safe space of peace and relaxation and get away from the stresses of every day life.
- Exercise Regularly - Everyone knows that regular exercise does wonders for the body, but exercise is also a fantastic method for managing stress as it benefits the mind as well. Physical activity causes the brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters in the brain that cause a person to feel good. People often describe this feeling as an exercise high they experience right after completing some form of physical activity. These feelings associated with exercise, if done regularly, can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and can increase a person’s self esteem, overall leading to a reduction of stress. People often turn away from exercise out of intimidation. If a person has never been particularly athletic, exercise can seem foreign and intimidating. However, virtually any form of physical exertion can produce positive effects. If you do not feel comfortable with certain forms of exercise like running or going to the gym, find movement exercises that make you feel comfortable. Walking is a great way to get started! Many people claim that they do not have time to exercise, but even walking for ten minutes every day can improve mood and reduce stress. Another great exercise method is yoga, which combines the benefits of meditation with physical involvement. Start with a beginner’s yoga class, where you can feel comfortable knowing everyone is at the same skill level, and work your way from there. Overall, the point is find some form of exercise that you enjoy, and that will motivate you to stick with it.
- Go Outside - Too often are days spent inside, cramped in an office workspace or class room. Getting outside for some time each day can actually improve mental health and reduce symptoms of stress! Studies have shown that being outside in the fresh air produces physiological effects such as lowered heart rate and lowered cortisol levels, otherwise known as the stress-producing hormone. Natural environments are less demanding on a person’s brain, making the process of slowing and calming much easier. Studies have also indicated that spending time in nature changes the way the blood flows within the brain, showing reduced blood flow in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, the area in the brain responsible for the rumination of negative thoughts and feelings. A great way to combine two forms of stress reduction is to take a walk outside each day. Not only does it reduce stress, but it can increase overall energy. The brain experiences stimulation in various areas, increasing motivation, creativity, energy levels, and ultimately reducing stress.
- Try Neurofeedback - Neurofeedback is a method of training the brain to function healthily and calmly, leading to great reduction of stress and higher productivity levels. Once the specialist pinpoints the discordant rhythms in the brain that are having trouble processing and dealing with stress, neurofeedback sessions aim to correct the unhealthy brain waves. Neurofeedback is 100% natural, not requiring any additional medications. Furthermore, neurofeedback reduces anxiety, depression, and can even improve sleep, one of the seven most common causes of stress. After completing neurofeedback training, the brain is better equipped to manage stress without getting overwhelmed as easily. The results are long-lasting and durable with the ability to positively impact both work, school, and even sports performance.
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