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How our bodies and minds respond to stress, and ways we can reduce it and stay healthy

How our bodies and minds respond to stress, and ways we can reduce it and stay healthy

In today's dynamic world, characterized by various societal upheavals and personal challenges, stress levels are on the rise. Whether it's navigating uncertainties brought on by global events or grappling with personal issues, many individuals find themselves overwhelmed by anxiety and tension.

Recent data from the Census Bureau underscores the severity of the situation, revealing that a significant portion of the population—approximately one-third of Americans—are exhibiting symptoms indicative of clinical depression or anxiety. These statistics underscore the urgent need for effective stress management techniques to mitigate the impact of these challenges on individuals' mental well-being.

Reducing stress is essential for maintaining mental and emotional equilibrium in the face of adversity. Implementing strategies for stress management can empower individuals to navigate turbulent times with greater resilience and calm. Whether it's incorporating mindfulness practices, engaging in regular physical activity or cultivating supportive social connections, there are various approaches to effectively manage stress and promote overall well-being.

Incorporating stress-relief techniques into daily routines is paramount for safeguarding mental health amidst ongoing uncertainties. By prioritizing self-care and adopting proactive measures to manage stress, individuals can cultivate inner strength and resilience to navigate life's challenges with greater ease and positivity.

Here are some basic, uncomplicated ways to help reduce your level of anxiety. First and foremost though, if those feelings are overwhelming, or if the suggestions below don’t help, talk to your doctor.

1. Stick to a schedule.

As we've observed the increasing prevalence of remote work, one drawback emerges: the constant availability blurs the lines between work and personal life, potentially leading to significant stress and anxiety.

To mitigate this, designate a specific workspace. When the workday concludes, physically close the door to that area or shut down your laptop, resisting the urge to reopen it until the following day.

2. Exercise More Often.

Truly, don’t you always feel better after even a walk around the block?

Exercise may contribute to stress resilience, potentially reducing the impact of stress in your daily life.

Physical activity also triggers the release of a molecule known as BDNF. This acts as a "brain fertilizer," fostering the growth of new brain cells and enhancing brain resilience against stress effects.

If you're struggling to begin, consider starting with a 10-minute walk. You might also find it helpful to have an accountability partner to exercise together.

Tension Releasing Exercises

Tension release exercises are simple physical movements designed to alleviate muscular tension that accumulates in the body due to stress. Common tension release exercises include:

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
  • Yoga Poses such as Child's Pose or Cat-Cow
  • Tai Chi or Qigong sequences
  • Gentle stretching routines

3. Use Relaxing Breathing Exercises

Relaxation exercises involve various methods that reduce tension in the body and increase mental well-being. These help trigger the body's relaxation response.

  • Deep Belly Breathing: Place one hand on your belly and breathe deeply into your diaphragm, expanding your abdomen, then exhaling slowly.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing: Close off one nostril and breathe in, then close the other nostril and breathe out, alternating sides.

The Box Breathing Technique

What is Box Breathing?

Box Breathing, or four-square breathing, is a powerful concentration exercise that also acts as a natural stress reducer. This technique provides an immediate effect and requires only a few minutes and no special equipment.

How to Practice Box Breathing

  1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for four counts.
  4. Exhale through your nose for four counts.
  5. Hold your breath again for four counts.
  6. Repeat for four full breath cycles at least twice a day or whenever you feel stress levels rising.

4. Practice Meditation

No need to surround yourself with candles or sit on a mat for an hour. You can simply stay in bed five extra minutes while you focus on your breath.

It's really effective because you are setting aside time for yourself to only focus on you.

In addition, research shows that meditation can dampen your fight or flight response as well as lead to a decrease in resting cortisol levels. Where to start? Check out these top-recommended meditation apps.

5. Focus on Your Sleep Quality.

Not consistently getting enough sleep is a form of chronic stress in itself.

Establishing a consistent exercise routine can help improve sleep quality and facilitate easier sleep onset. Also, avoid using technology 30 minutes before bedtime and establish a bedtime routine, whether it involves walking the dog, watching TV or reading a book. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

6. Keep a journal.

For individuals experiencing anxiety, particularly towards the end of the day, a beneficial strategy linked to cognitive behavioral therapy is journaling. Transferring thoughts onto paper can help alleviate bedtime anxiety.

Some people choose to record their daily activities, while others focus on their emotions. Some may list reasons for gratitude. Alternatively, one might make a list of tasks for the next day, encompassing both work-related and personal responsibilities.

This practice can help alleviate nighttime anxiety and promote a more restful sleep.

7. Laugh More.

Despite the variety of stressful life circumstances, there's always something to find humor in. Additionally, laughter offers numerous benefits. Research indicates that laughing, or even being exposed to laughter, can decrease stress levels, improve mood and temporarily reduce stress hormone levels.


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