When we have too much to do and not enough time to do it all, it's a recipe for stress. To keep stress in check, you may have been advised to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. But there are additional healthy lifestyle stress management tools you can use to help manage stress further.
Modern-day living can be overwhelming. It can be easy to slide into an unhealthy stress-fueled cycle that can lead to an adverse physical and emotional state. Long-term (chronic) stress can take its toll on the body making it essential to build a healthy day-to-day lifestyle to manage stress before it becomes consuming. Here are some helpful tips to get you started or to regain control if you need some added support with healthy lifestyle stress management.
When people are stressed and/or burning the candle at both ends, they can set themselves up for health issues. Create balance and alleviate stress by creating a realistic daily plan to stay on track. Having a plan ahead of starting your day can help manage stress by getting clear on what you need to do and what is achievable. Taking on too much can lead to an overproduction of stress hormones and leave you feeling burnt out. Many people wait until stress has taken over, but taking a proactive approach can support the harmful effects of excessive stress. A nutritional diet and daily movement or exercise are also effective ways to manage overall stress. You may also want to consider the following supportive strategies to help manage stress and any possible imbalance.
Stress triggers a natural response in the body with the release of stress hormones. The body is designed to deal with acute (short-term) stress, and in the event of a threat, cortisol and adrenalin are released to propel us into action. The body cannot distinguish between different types of stressors, and ongoing stress can cause the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands to continue to release stress hormones, keeping levels elevated. The persistent effect of elevated stress hormones can lead to an imbalance as the body is not able to get back into a more relaxed state.
Calming down the adrenal gland response and balancing stress hormones can be powerful factors in managing chronic stress. If you feel that stress may be having an effect on your mood, energy levels, sleep, weight management and how you feel overall, a simple at-home functional medicine lab test can help to identify any imbalance in hormones that can be the result of various stressors. You can also work with an Integrative Health Practitioner to understand this at a deeper level with a personalized plan on how to support it and move forward in the right way for you.
Quality sleep is vital to your overall health, so it's no surprise that sleep habits and cycles are directly related to stress levels. The American Psychological Association states that when stress increases, sleep length and quality decrease. This can set you up for further health problems and imbalances that affect energy, memory, mood, metabolism and many other bodily functions.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Proper sleep, including quality and quantity, supports a calm body and mind. Follow a healthy sleep protocol that includes supportive nutrients to help get you back on track when managing stress.
Meditation has also shown to have a positive effect on psychological stress and other stress-related health problems, according to a study on mindfulness meditation programs published in JAMA Internal Medicine. There are many types of meditation techniques — mindfulness, transcendental, relaxation, walking and guided — to help you practice being fully present and aware.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that breathwork like diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, may trigger a relaxation response and improve mental function. Deep breathing can also positively affect cortisol levels.
An effective way to help reduce stress is to write about your emotions, worries and difficulties. Further studies have found that writing about stressful or emotional events actually improved psychological and physical health. Set aside time to write in a journal, blank notebook, or even just jot your thoughts down on a piece of paper if something is worrying you. Releasing these emotions with pen and paper can also be quite cathartic.
Looking on the bright side is good for you and studies have found that optimism has an effect on the quality of life. This confirms that a positive mindset may be a useful coping mechanism in combating and preventing stress. Practice optimism by expressing daily gratitude in a journal, spend more time with positive friends and family, be aware of negative self-talk and how this may be affecting your mood, speak to a professional who can help you find supportive mindset strategies and find time for plenty of laughter and doing things you enjoy.
Although it's impossible to avoid all stress, the good news is that not all stress is bad. In fact, "good stress" — also known as eustress — is responsible for motivation and the feelings you have during exciting experiences. Roller coaster rides, challenging work projects and planning surprises can fall into this category, with eustress working to help you stay engaged and continue with day-to-day life, even during the more challenging times.
It's important to consider all aspects of your current routine and decide where you can implement supportive changes and tweaks that create a healthy lifestyle to manage stress. When you pay attention to both your physical and emotional well-being, it may help you identify any warning signs of stress, making it easier to support them sooner and prevent potential health problems by getting them under control.