While some stress can be good—the excitement of a new job or the possibility of a new baby—many stressors take a toll on our mental and physical health. Stress is defined as the body’s response to a challenge or demand. To reduce the toll stress takes on our minds and bodies, we’ve outlined some steps you can take to lower your stress levels and increase your health.
To Dos & Don'ts of Stress Regulation
Feeling irritable, unable to focus, or just plain exhausted? You’re likely stressed out. Step one, get some sleep! Sleep deprivation quickly compounds the negative effects of stress, causing you to be even more irritable and overwhelmed. Step two, recognize that your day is full of options. Keep these dos and don’ts in mind when you notice your heart rate increasing, your palms sweating, and your stress level rising.
- Don’t: Overindulge in sugar and caffeine—this can make you feel even more anxious or too sluggish to take tackle what’s in front of you.
- Do: Eat a balanced diet (including vegetables and Omega-3 fats) to keep your body healthy and functioning optimally.
- Don’t: Sit still for long periods of time.
- Do: Engage in non-competitive exercise, such as yoga, tai chi, or jogging. Not interested in these? Take a walk outside!
- Don’t: Engage in negative self-talk such as dwelling on past mistakes.
- Do: Remind yourself how awesome you are! Make a list of your best qualities, skills, or unique strengths, and reference them often.
- Don’t: Take on too much responsibility in an unrealistic time.
- Do: Set attainable goals with small goals along the way. Recruit help when needed!
Now that we’ve discussed how to respond during stressful situations, let’s back up and try to prevent them all together. First, identify what events cause you to feel stressed. Then, get to work! If you know getting behind on your work produces stress and anxiety, then think about how you can ensure this doesn’t happen. Perhaps you need to move to a quieter space or be clearer with your coworkers on what you need for a productive work environment? Maybe your workload needs to be adjusted on days when you have extra meetings? Ask yourself tough questions and establish clear boundaries that will help you to avoid stressful situations before they occur.
Nature may be the remedy to many of your anxious feelings.You can change nature (think of the ripple effect of tossing a small stone into a river), and nature can have an equal or greater influence on you: It provides shelter, tools and resources, inspiration, and more.
- Lacking purpose or feeling disconnected? Spending time in the great outdoors reminds you that you’re a part of something bigger than the small space you individually occupy. It can be humbling, but helpful, to recognize how big the universe truly is.
- Overwhelmed by an upcoming task? Standing at the base of a massive evergreen tree will make you (and your problems) seem small in comparison.
- Worried about an upcoming presentation? Let the sound of the wind between the trees or a babbling brook calm you down.
- Feeling stuck? Remember that, without any input on your part at all, the seasons continue to change, the flowers still blossom, and the world keeps spinning. In short, life goes on.
Fortunately, the benefits of lowering your stress levels have a snowball effect. When you’ve dealt with what’s stressing you out and what’s triggering your stress, you’ll feel more energized. When you’ve increased your energy, you’ll be more productive. When you’re completing more tasks, you’ll feel happier. And when you’re pleasant, more people will want to be around you, providing you with the connection and community we all crave. Some stressors will be out of your control: the weather, your co-worker’s mood, etc. Our advice? Do the best you can. If you can’t control the situation, don’t let it control you.