We all know how easy it is to get caught up with our endless to-do lists, social activities, and work responsibilities then suddenly feel completely overwhelmed. And while our responsibilities and commitments are important, what's even more critical is that we take care of ourselves first.
When we're stressed, we experience increased cortisol levels (known as the "stress hormone"), as well as a rush in adrenaline. Our heart beats faster, our muscles tense, and we breathe more quickly in order to effectively distribute oxygen-rich blood throughout our bodies. While stress is designed as a "fight or flight" response, it can have negative impacts on our body, such as irritability, trouble sleeping, and headaches.
Today on the blog, we’ve narrowed down our favorite ways that help us keep stress at bay.
1. Get some exercise
You’ve heard us say this before. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is not only critical for your brain health and function, it's also important for your physical well-being, mental health, ability to relieve stress, and so much more. So whether you find your sense of calm by hitting the yoga mat once a day or by taking a walk around the block, getting active is a great way to gain some perspective while relieving stress.
2. Eat the right food
Incorporate some stress-busting foods into your diet. Leafy greens, like spinach, contain folate which ultimately produces dopamine (a happy chemical that keeps you calm). If you’re craving carbs when you’re stressed, try sticking to a healthier complex carb like oatmeal which releases serotonin while satisfying that craving. Other foods that help with stress control? Turkey, yogurt (helpful for gut health, which is key to everything mind + body related), blueberries, and salmon.
Want to find more ingredients that have stress-relieving properties? Try finding foods or supplements that include Turmeric, Ashwagandha, and Chamomile for a natural calming effect and manage occasional stress.
3. Take at least one night a week to focus on your self care
Whether it’s drawing yourself a bubble bath, lighting your favorite candle, or writing in your journal, taking some "me" time is critical to reducing the amount of stress in our lives while taking a personal inventory on how we’re doing.
Self care practices can bring about changes to the autonomic nervous system (ANS), a part of our central nervous system. This part of our nervous system impacts functions in our bodies such as heartbeat, breathing, and sweating, all parts of our natural stress response. Self care practices activate the parasympathetic division of the ANS, which prompts a calming response to stressors and helps us feel more relaxed. Next time you’re wondering whether or not to "Treat Yo’self" — just do it.
4. Break out the coloring books
No, really! Adult coloring books have become a hot commodity in the U.S. and across Europe. Studies have shown that coloring books are effective in reducing stress in adults due to their ability to narrow in our focus on just one simple, soothing task. It actually has calming effects on the amygdala, the part of our brain that manages the fear/stress response. Guess it’s time to break out the colored pencils and get coloring!
5. Practice controlled breathing
Breathe in, breathe out. The simplest stress relief-tactic on this list, taking deep breaths increases the supply of oxygen to our brains and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages a state of calmness in our bodies. If we take 20 minutes each day to practice deep breathing through our abdomen, we can become more connected to our body and are able to quiet our minds.
While it's important to keep up with our day to day commitments, the most important commitment we have is to ourselves and our own health. Have some favorite stress-relief hacks? Comment below and let us know!