By: Dr. Francesca Vazquez
As we go through life (many of us on the fast-lane), we rarely notice how stressed we really are. Most of us have become accustomed to this lifestyle and strive on being “too busy” and on having a deadline.
However, it’s important to realize that when our stress levels become constant, they can start having a huge impact on both our mental and physical health.
Luckily, there are techniques and lifestyle tips proven to work towards decreasing the negative impact stress can have and help us live a more balanced life.
Here are some psychological tips for decreasing stress:
1. Eat a nutrient-dense diet
When we are stressed, we become tired and lazy, often resulting in poor eating habits.
By not eating nutrient dense foods, our body quickly becomes depleted in essential vitamins and minerals, increasing our chances of developing disease and mental health issues.
To better handle stress, make sure you are eating foods that are high in vitamin Bs, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and omega 3’s. These include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fish.
For a quick stress busting food, grab a banana. Bananas help increase magnesium and potassium levels, calming the nervous system.
2. Engage in short, high intensity workouts
Exercise is one of the best ways to dissipate stress. It oxygenates our body and increases neurotransmitters that help decrease stress and boost mood (e.g, endorphins).
Try to engage in 30-minute high intensity workouts at least twice a week.
It will help you get rid of tension and improve mental clarity (also improving sleep and preventing depression).
3. Start practicing mindful movement
Using the breath to fully engage with our movements helps calm the mind and lets us become more comfortable with discomfort. Mindful movement includes yoga but can also include exercises such as barre and pilates.
Including any of these exercises into your weekly routine will help you decrease the negative impact stress can have on your mind and body while also helping you better respond to stressful events.
4. Meditate to quiet the mind
It’s important to learn how to gain control over our thoughts.
Our thoughts tend to exaggerate the magnitude of the problem and when stressed, we may often find ourselves jumping from one thought to another.
Meditation can help. Start with a 2-5 minute daily meditation, focusing on your breath or a mantra and slowly increase to 10-20 minutes a day.
5. Disconnect through flow experiences
To better handle stress, try to engage in activities that disconnect your mind and emotions. These are called “flow experiences”. They tend to be activities that require our full attention and are fun yet challenging.
These may include: drawing, painting, building, writing, rock-climbing and so on. Try to explore what activities bring about the flow experience in you and go there are often as you need.
6. Start a gratitude practice
When we are stressed, we tend to focus all our energy on negative events. We need to take a moment during the day to appreciate what is going well as this not only helps decrease our stress hormones but also trains our brain to become more optimistic.
At the end of your day (or whenever you are feeling overwhelmed), try to write down 3 things you are grateful for or 3 good things that happened throughout the day.
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