Stress is part of everyday life, from minor challenges to major crises.
While you can't always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them. When stress becomes overwhelming, it impacts your health and wellbeing. That's why it's important to learn effective coping mechanisms that help to calm your mind and your body. The busy modern world is powerfully geared to provoking high levels of stress. So it's important to create a lifestyle that will help you deflect feelings of stress and deal with challenges in a healthy way. Certain habits can promote resilience to stress as well as increase overall wellness.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A poor diet can lead to greater reactivity toward stress. Emotional eating and reaching for high-fat, high-sugar foods can provide a temporary sense of relief that adds to your long-term stress. Refined carbs, like those found in many snacks, can cause a spike in blood sugar.
When your blood sugar crashes, you might experience more stress and anxiety. Consuming a healthy diet can help you combat stress in the long term. Foods high in protein and healthy fats such as eggs, avocados, and walnuts support mood regulation and energy balance.
It’s a no-brainer, but worth the friendly reminder—if only to reiterate that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping your body moving will really work wonders for improving your overall wellbeing and ability to manage those moments of stress. It can also be a way to shift that stressed energy into the pavement or into the tennis racket, which can really help clear your head and rationalise your feelings.
Limit your alcohol and coffee intake
Caffeine and alcohol—and in fact, any other stimulants—tend to exacerbate stress as they rouse the nervous system, making it work harder and faster. They can also trigger panic attacks. And while we use these psychoactive substances to help us relax (a glass of wine after work) or boost our mental energy (a cup of coffee before work), turning to these substances regularly as a coping strategy, in fact, turns out to be counterproductive and only makes dealing with stress much harder. Changing caffeine and alcohol habits can take time, but with support and determination, you will notice positive changes.
Get some R&R
Self-care and enough sleep are some of the best ways to get on top of stress before it becomes too crippling to manage. A fully packed schedule can make anyone feel stressed out, so it’s important to take some time out each day to do something for yourself. Make no excuses and schedule it into your day—that way you won’t feel guilty about not doing something else.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, reading and practising simple breathing techniques can all help to reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Lack of sleep won’t help feelings of stress either—your ability to handle stressful situations and maintain a positive mood comes with sufficient rest. Experts recommend adults aim for at least 7–9 hours of sleep each night.
Identify your triggers and manage them
It could be work, family, or something else that triggers stress for you. Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious and look for a pattern.
Identifying what causes stress is an important step towards managing it, as this helps you understand and confront what is going on and acknowledge the emotional response in relation to the situation.
Addressing them doesn’t mean you have to avoid them; accept the experience and talk to someone you trust about these triggers. This can help you handle them differently and learn new ways to respond effectively.
Finding the best stress relief strategies for you may take some experimenting.
What may work well for others, might not be as impactful for you. But it's important to keep looking for the tools that will help you manage life's inevitable ups and downs in a healthy way. Keeping stress at a manageable level is important for your overall health and wellbeing.