To better manage stress, remember to meditate a few minutes every day. Daily practice has been shown to help improve your mood and lower blood pressure, which has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
When we’re bogged down with competing deadlines at work and at home, stress serves a purpose.
When we are in danger, stress hormones elevate our heart rate, increase our blood pressure, boost our energy, and prepare us to deal with a problem. However, our bodies may also act this way when we aren’t in danger, but are instead facing other stresses. If our body does this too much, it can overwhelm our health, well-being or clear thinking.
Here are are a few tips from Dr. Posner and a couple of more healthy ways to manage our stress and to understand why this is so important:
1. Allow yourself to take a moment before reacting. Breathing is an essential part of stress management, slowing down your heart rate, decreasing your blood pressure and allowing yourself to recalibrate. Responding to stress becomes easier when the system is in a resting state, rather than in overdrive as it is when the stress hormones have taken over. Another thing to do when you face a stressful situation and you can feel your heart rate speed up, is to slowly count to ten. This causes you to breathe and have time to decrease those stress hormones, which are often reactive. Take the time to get in control of your emotions, by changing the state your body and mind are in, before you react in a way that might make the situation even more stressful.
2. Stand up, stretch, and go for a quick walk. Not only does exercise increase the production of endorphins, your body’s natural mood-booster, but a walk around the block can help clear your head and shift your thoughts from stressing about a situation to evaluating how to solve it. Physically moving will help manage those stress hormones and help your mind become more focused and clearer. Also, try talking to yourself. When you catch yourself in a spiral of negative thoughts about a stressful situation, practice positive self-talk. When you think, “I hate it when this happens,” tell yourself, “I know how to deal with this; I’ve done this before.” When you think, “Everything is going wrong,” think, “I can handle this if I take it one step at a time.” Stress becomes less powerful when you change your perspective.
3. Get physical. You don’t have to experience “runner’s high” to know that exercise can be a real stress reliever. “Physical activity also increases feel-good hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine,” says Dr. Posner. We can’t underestimate the effects that a little sunshine and fresh air can have on your mood such as decreasing your blood pressure and heart rate, so get outside! Schedule a mix of cardio sessions (three to five) and strength training sessions (two or more) each week to keep your heart rate and mood elevated.
Exercise and moving your body are critically important in managing stress. Getting rid of the stress hormones, or “blowing off some steam,” can help manage stress, help you sleep better, and help you think clearer to reframe your thinking.
Many people choose to practice yoga or meditation, such as transcendental meditation, which has been shown to reduce stress and decrease blood pressure, which may reduce your risk of heart disease. On a day-to-day basis, having tools to manage stress is important. Even a simpler form of deep breathing can be helpful. Every day, set aside at least five minutes to practice deep breathing. Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor or lie down. Close your eyes, and picture yourself in a peaceful place. Inhale and exhale, focusing on breathing slowly and deeply.
4. Turn on the tunes. We know that music can affect our mood and energy level – that’s why we choose energetic music for exercise and calming background music for a quiet sit-down dinner. Experiment with different music that can motivate you to take on a stressful workload, calm you down, or even snap you out of a negative mood. Find times to laugh, which helps dilate your arteries, increases feel good hormones, and improves your disposition. Giving and getting hugs can make a difference, too by increasing those feel-good hormones. Nothing is better than being hugged when you are in a bad mood!
5. Make the Food-Mood connections!
Be Mindful and Incorporate Your New Mood State of Mind!
When you’re mindful about your food choices, it has a positive effect on your well-being. Follow the tips outlined here to fuel your potential in both body and mind.
“A good mood makes it so much easier to take on the day,” Dr. Posner reminds us. “When you’re calm and even-keeled, one healthy food choice leads to another, and you can avoid the mood swings that come from being hungry or ‘hangry.’”
Now, that’s something to be happy about!