Who’s feeling stressed? These days, pretty much everyone, all the time, which is not surprising considering that stress can come from many angles and forms: social, physical, financial, emotional, psycho-spiritual, environmental, mental, and cultural.
Stress isn’t bad; in fact, just like the Goldilocks Principle tells us, we need just the right amount to thrive. Too little can be just as harmful and impairing as too much. However, since most people have too much on their plates (even if it’s just a matter of perception), stress management tactics like the following are priceless for protecting your limited, valuable resources:
- Reframe. They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and to a large degree, so is stress. In other words, stress is a matter of perception, and how we perceive stressful matters can have tremendous consequences on how we react and on the eventual outcome. Do you tend to view stress negatively — as obstacles, threatening, and debilitating? Or, do you embrace a positive mindset, viewing stress as opportunity, enhancing, and challenging (in a good way)? Instead of the stress-is-debilitating mindset, try to reframe and embrace a stress-is-enhancing mindset, which optimizes the hormonal response to stress and improves cognitive abilities.
- Set boundaries. Learn to say “NO.” As hard as it can be, you may be spreading yourself too thin by aiming to please others and taking on more than you can handle. Do what is right and don’t make apologies.
- Practice yoga. Yoga has been shown to reduce cortisol and exert powerful “anti-stress” effects.
- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation, which is a form of meditation where you focus your awareness on your breathing and body in the present moment, has been shown to lower both stress and cortisol levels.
- Take a walk. Taking a leisurely walk in nature, also known as Shinrin-yokuor “forest bathing,” can help reduce stress, lower cortisol, and activate the body’s “rest and digest” branch of the nervous system (parasympathetic).
- Breathe deeply and slowly. Start with a long exhale, blowing out all the air in your lungs over the course of about 5 seconds. Hold your breath for a second, then take a deep, 5-second breath in through your belly, holding for a second. This type of breathing activates the vagus nerve, which reduces the body’s “fight or flight” response and increases its parasympathetic activity.
- Exercise. There’s no question that exercise can be an effective helping manage stress, and according to an article published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, “all types of exercise can be beneficial for stress management.”9 That said, be careful with doing too much high-intensity exercise (such as high-intensity resistance training and high-intensity interval training), which can induce a pretty substantial adrenal/stress response and promote burnout. In fact, many females often benefit from reducing their volume of high-intensity exercise, instead including a bit more low- to moderate-intensity activity (e.g., walking, yoga).
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