We all know what it’s like to deal with stress in our lives. In fact, it’s such a universal experience that we often forget the serious impact that it can have on our bodies. Chronic stress can cause adverse health effects, such as migraines, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, a weakened immune system and digestive system issues.
April is National Stress Awareness Month, making it a great time to assess your stress levels and create a plan to manage and reduce the stress in your life. Below are five easy methods of stress reduction that anyone can use.
It is a well-known fact among doctors and researchers that regular exercise reduces stress. Exercise lowers levels of two key stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and increases levels of endorphins, also known as the “feel good” hormones. Exercise also serves as a distraction from stressful events.
Any type of exercise helps relieve stress, even brisk walking. If you don’t have time to do a rigorous workout every day, try taking a daily 15-minute walk or participating in an entry-level yoga routine.
Research has shown that regular meditation is an effective stress reduction method. The purpose of meditation is to clear the mind and focus on the present moment. Regular meditation practice improves our ability to let go of negative and stressful thoughts.
To meditate, simply sit in a quiet, comfortable place, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. If your mind wanders, that’s okay. Let stray thoughts pass by and bring your attention back to your breath. Start by meditating in 2-3 minute sessions, and increase the length of time as you get more comfortable.
There is evidence to suggest that aromatherapy, which is the use of fragrant essential oils to heal your body, can effectively reduce stress levels. This can be done by adding essential oils to a hot bath, massage oils or to a water-based solution that you spray throughout your living space. You can also simply rub the essential oil on your hands and inhale the aroma.
Six essential oils that have shown promising results in studies on stress relief are lavender, lemon, bergamot, ylang ylang, clary sage and jasmine.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal, whether you fill it with words or with pictures, can reduce your stress levels. Journaling is a good way to organize your thoughts and feelings so that they are easier to process. Alternatively, journaling can provide a distraction from the stressful events of the day. Journaling is a way of expressing your creativity, which puts you in a more relaxed and optimistic frame of mind.
There are no rules about what exactly you should write or draw in your journal; do whatever makes you feel the most relaxed and fulfilled.
Seek Physical Contact
When it comes to stress relief and physical healing, touch is incredibly powerful. Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy reduces stress and improves overall mental health in infants and children. One study even found that therapeutic massage and healing touch reduced mood disturbance, pain and fatigue in cancer patients.
So, if you’re looking to reduce stress, seeking physical contact is a great strategy. Take time to cuddle with your kids, your significant other or your pet. Get a massage, or even a pedicure. Any kind of physical contact works.
Stress reduction is easy when you dedicate your time to it, and reducing stress will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your body. Try at least one of these stress reduction methods this month. If it works, keep it up for the whole year!