By Yajen Tan
Stress sucks, but you probably didn’t need my reminder to feel that. There are countless triggers of stress that we face today. Whether it’s relationships, finances, work-related, or those little rascals that take up all your free time to raise, they all gradually compound into your body until you can’t take it anymore. You’re not alone. It is estimated that up to 90% of doctor’s visits are due to stress-related cases. If you want to save yourself a visit to the doctor’s office and stay away from stress-related diseases, take a look at what you can do to cut back on stress and learn to relax.
One of the most common impacts that stress has on the human body is through our relationship with food. The stress-induced hormone cortisol can cause an insulin response in the body that will trigger a desire for “comfort foods”. These foods are often loaded up with unhealthy sugars and fats that can help relieve that stress, but over time, can cause serious chronic health conditions.
Tips to combat stress and improve your health:
Practice mindfulness meditation
Meditation is something that has become more popular, in the past few years, for stress-reduction. It took me a couple tries to really be able to sit still for more than 5 minutes at a time, but it was incredibly worth it. Not only did I feel more alert and focused after I tried, but I also felt calmer than I had in a while. An easy way to get into meditation would be to try a couple guided meditations that are led by a meditation teacher through voice recording.
Lay back and relax
Sleep is one of the most important parts to health. Unfortunately, stress can seriously impact the quality of your sleep, and we all know that a poor night of sleep never made the next day any better. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the majority of adults get around 7-9 hours of sleep per night. What helped me better stick to a sleep schedule was to just set it and stick to it. It also helped to learn a couple times what it felt like to wake up at 5 in the morning, after missing my determined bedtime.
Work out the stress, but not too hard
Working out is probably the last thing on your mind after a stressful day. Although it might not sound as appealing as a slice of pizza, it’s shown that low intensity workouts can help lower the levels of cortisol in the body. However, it does appear that higher intensity workouts can temporarily increase your stress levels. Before you start questioning why a trainer sounds to be recommending against exercise, it was found that exercise has the ability to produce brain cells that are more resilient to stress compared to an inactive counterpart.
Plan for success
Benjamin Franklin once said that “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I never truly realized what that meant until I started realizing that many of the failures that I faced were the result of not having planned better. In the past year, I’ve put an enormous emphasis on improving my organization skills by doing the following:
-Outlining all events and activities that I participate in
-Outlining regular morning and pre-bedtime routines
-Cleaning out my room
-Journaling on thoughts and ideas
I’ve found that these tactics, amongst many more, have significantly helped me in reducing the amount of stress and anxieties that I previously faced on a regular basis. My goal for organization is to clean out the clutter and give me a clean slate to operate on.
Go out on a hike
When was the last time you stepped out into nature to relax? A study done in Japan showed that a 15 minute experience out in nature was able to reduce stress concentrations by around 15%. That means that the simple act of being outdoors can help you eliminate a fair amount of the anxieties that build up throughout the week. On top of that, hiking gives you the added benefits of a light-to-moderate intensity exercise session. Luckily, the San Gabriel Mountains is home to a large variety of hiking trails that allow people of all fitness-levels to access these benefits.