Hurricanes. Fires. A lingering global pandemic. Rises in unemployment. An asteroid hurtling towards earth ... And we thought we were stressed out before 2020! Now, stress is as ubiquitous as hand sanitizers and face masks!
While we strive to be optimistic and always look for the positives in life, sometimes stress can get the better of us. That's why it's so important to combat stress whenever we can because chronic stress can do some serious damage to our minds, vitality and overall health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, when we are exposed to excessive stress, our “fight or flight reaction” is continuously turned on, dumping cortisol and adrenaline into your body and wreaking havoc on our organs, blood pressure and immune system. Stress can literally kill us via heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress can also lead to anger, feelings of helplessness, depression, sleep issues, overeating and weight gain.
Don’t let stress get the better of you. Here are some helpful ways to combat stress throughout the holidays and beyond:
1. Pet a Furry Friend: A University of Missouri-Columbia study found that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin (the love hormone), giving you the warm fuzzies and lowering your blood pressure.
2. Walk It Off: Head outdoors for a good long walk. Find a park with lots of trees if you can and be mindful while you walk, taking in the air, the scenery, the beauty of nature.
3. Get Crafty: Feeling worried about having the funds to buy gifts for birthdays or the upcoming holidays can certainly heighten the stress factor. Instead, let your inner child shine and create something crafty and personable for your loved ones. Head to Pinterest.com for an endless supply of ideas.
4. Nosh on This: Foods such as sweet potatoes, turkey, red bell peppers, turmeric, sesame seeds, pistachios and kiwis all contain essential nutrients that reduce stress hormones, regulate anxiety, lower blood pressure and boost your mood, according to Holly Mosier, author of “Stress Less, Weigh Less.”
5. Lend a Helping Hand: Harvard and Yale researchers found that volunteering your time can make you feel more efficient and, therefore, less hurried and stressed. Examples of where to volunteer include local nursing homes, boys and girls clubs, homeless shelters, church ministries, local food banks or animal shelters.
6. Float Away: Relax and unwind as you let your mind drift away while floating in a shallow pool of healing Epsom salts various float spas across the United States.
7. Be a Kid Again: Get some crayons and a coloring book, play hide and seek or tag with your kids, or build a fort in your living room!
8. Quiet Your Mind: Many studies have shown the incredible benefits meditation has on our minds and bodies. The beauty is, you can meditate anywhere, any time.
9. Sip Stress Away: Studies show that drinking Peppermint Tea not only eases nausea but helps control mild asthma, manage stress and fight off the common cold.
10. Do Yoga: Downward dog, tree pose and sun salutation your way into healthy peace. Yoga’s multitude of benefits includes relieving anxiety and depression, lowering heart rate and blood pressure and improving physical fitness, strength and flexibility.
11. Groove to the Beat: Put on a stress-free playlist while you do your house chores to make them feel less stressful.
12. Learn To Say ‘No’: Overextending yourself is a sure-fire way to bring on the stress. It’s OK to say no. You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. If you can’t fit it in without sacrificing something else, say no.
13. Get the Girls Together: Grab a girlfriend or three and head to a painting place where you can all enjoy a glass of your favorite wine while expressing your inner Picasso.
14. Stretch It Out: Practice these seated stretches each day or when you are feeling stressed: cross-legged lower back stretch, upward arm stretch, chair lower-back stretch, right angle pose and downward-facing dog.
15. Nurture Yourself: Treat yourself to an indulging foot massage or schedule a relaxing massage at a local spa. Don’t want to spend the money on yourself? Take a bath and use a soothing lavender-scented bubble bath to soak your troubles away, or curl up under the covers for a mid-day nap.
16. Reach Out and Touch Someone: A study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that human touch helps your brain release those feel-good hormones of serotonin and lowers blood pressure, allowing an overall feeling of contentment to wash over you.
17. Laugh It Up: Studies show laughter has several therapeutic effects. Find some stand-up comedy shows on Netflix and let those belly laughs rip!
18. Lower Your Expectations: Expectations can really disappoint us and up stress levels. Try to have as few expectations as possible in life and get ready for some pleasant surprises.