Stress is an inevitable part of life. And in short bursts, it’s actually healthy. Researchers say it primes the brain for its best performance. It keeps you alert and even promotes the growth of new nerve cells.
But too much can lead to problems, manifesting as a myriad of physical, emotional and behavioral problems. It can cause headaches, stomachaches and trouble sleeping. It can make you depressed, aggressive, irritable, anxious or even bored with life.
And COVID-19 hasn’t done anything to help the situation. But there are things that can help. So, this week, we wanted to take a look a handful of simple options to help ease the stress of social distancing if you’re stuck at home.
Stay Physically Active
We all know exercise is good for the body, but what we don’t often consider is that it’s also good for our mental wellbeing. It helps energize us and improves our ability to concentrate. And experts know that even five minutes of aerobic exercise on a regular basis can help reduce anxiety, stabilize your mood, improve your ability to sleep and boost your overall self-esteem.
So take a few minutes each day to get active. There are a million and one ways to get your exercise—click here to see a few easy ones.
Cut Back on the Caffeine
Most of us enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning to help us get up and get active. A moderate amount even helps lift our mood. But caffeine also elevates cortisol levels—the fight-or-fight hormone you experience in stressful situations. So, too much (the equivalent of four cups of coffee) will end up working against you if you’re trying to reduce stress.
And it’s not just coffee. Tea, most soda and even chocolate (to a lesser degree) have caffeine. If you’re going to partake, try to avoid consuming caffeinated drinks and food after 2 p.m. Along with elevated cortisol levels, caffeine will get in the way of you getting adequate sleep. And consider using it before you exercise. The workout will help burn it out of your system.
Sleep’s Not Negotiable
Getting adequate sleep is a must when managing stress. Experts recommend a minimum of seven hours for most adults—children, teens especially, need even more. Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle, as it becomes harder to get the right amount of sleep when you’re dealing with more stress. We already went over two things that can help you sleep better—getting exercise and cutting back on caffeine—but here are a few more:
Get More Natural Light
Sunlight in the early hours helps regulate your sleep patterns—your circadian rhythm. If you’re not able to get out, consider purchasing a light therapy device that you can keep near you.
Shut off Those Screens
The blue light emitted from TVs, computers and smart phones can interfere with your sleep cycle. They suppress the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Try to power down an hour before bed.
Keep it Cool
Experts recommend lowering the temperature in your bedroom if you’re having trouble getting to sleep—65 degrees, plus or minus a degree or two, is optimal. Your brain takes cooler temperatures, combined with a dark space, as a cue to move into sleep mode. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can set it to automatically adjust the temperature for your bedtime every night.
In some Eastern cultures, meditation is a practice with a history stretching back thousands of years. In Western society, we’re just now catching on to its many benefits—stress reduction being one.
There are many forms of meditation, which may or may not be linked to a spiritual practice. So, it can work for anyone. In short, a basic practice involves sitting in a relaxed position with your eyes closed while clearing your mind—or focusing your mind on just one thing.
Clearing the mind is often next to impossible for a beginner, so focusing in one thing can be helpful. That focus can be the sound and sensation of taking deep easy breaths, counting, repeating a mantra (a short phrase) or even voicing a simple sound, such as “omm.” Click here for an easy example of how to get started.
With as little as 10 minutes a day, you can help ease stress and even improve health through lower blood pressure, improved digestion and enhanced mood. Not bad for 10 minutes a day.
If you’re a little more stressed that usual, we hope these tips help.