Stress is a completely normal aspect of life.
At some time or another, every human being experiences stress. Stress to your body can come in the form of workplace stress, financial anxiety, even disease. When you experience stress, your brain releases neurochemicals and hormones that help it decide whether or not you need to fight or run away.
A little stress isn’t a bad thing. But when stress becomes prolonged, chronic, and unmanageable, our body’s response to stress can and will eventually kill us. But there are things we can do to help reduce the impact of stress on our bodies and manage our stress levels.
Here are 5 tips for recovering from and controlling stress that are backed by science.
So here’s the deal. Anyone can exercise. As long as you can move your body, you can exercise. You don’t have to deadlift 300 pounds to reap the benefits of exercise. Even just going for a walk helps improve your overall stress levels. There are seemingly countless scientific studies that back up the idea that exercise can help reduce stress. How does it work?
When you engage in physical exercise, your body releases dopamine and other endogenous opiates. Have you ever heard of a “runner’s high” before? This is what creates that high. These hormones can reduce the impact of stress hormones on your body. Exercise also reduces blood pressure and can lower your BMI. Being overweight stresses your body as well.
Spending time in nature can be rolled into exercise as well, creating a double-whammy of stress relief. One study by researchers at Stanford University showed that even just walking through greenspaces, like parks and forests, could reduce anxiety, and had a more positive impact than walking through urban environments.
3. Stand tall
Do you have bad posture? Do you tend to slump and slouch? You might be making your stress worse. According to another study published in the journal Health Psychology, people who stand upright with good posture tend to perform better in stressful situatuations. Researchers asked subjects to participate in a stressful speech task. Those who stood upright performed better and felt more positive than those who slouched. The slouching group felt more self-conscious and uneasy.
4. Take it easy.
When you’re stressed out, it’s easy to feel frazzled and rushed. One of the keys to de-stressing yourself may simply be slowing things down and taking it easy. When you think about how our brains evolved, we developed in a setting where we’d likely experience a great deal of stress, like running for a predator or attempting to hunt an animal, followed by lengthy periods of down time. That down time usually featured sex, eating, and sleeping. One of the best things you can do for yourself when you’re feeling stressed is to stop what you’re doing for 10 to 15 minutes, kick back, maybe eat something, take a quick power nap, and then press on. This can help you deal with stress.
5. Make it a game.
Yale and Harvard researchers working in conjunction published a study that indicates that the way you view your stress is paramount to how your body deals with it. If you view stressful situations as looming monsters, you’re more likely to suffer the worst effects of stress. But if you make it a game you have to beat or a challenge you have to conquer, you can develop a more positive response to stressful situations. So next time you’re feeling stressed out, think of it like a challenge!
Now that we know what makes stress better, what makes stress worse?
Just as important as finding ways to manage stress is knowing what causes stress to become worse. What should you avoid?
- Using drugs to try to mitigate the impacts of stress.
- Consuming alcohol or smoking cigarettes.
- Eating when stressed.
- Drinking too much caffeine.
- Eating sugary foods.
- Overdiscussing your stress.