6 Stress Reduction Strategies to Help You Regain your Balance
Dec 10, 2022
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Do you feel nervous? You are not alone. A survey found that 84 percent of Americans have at least one emotion related to stress -- but stress culture isn't just an American problem. In countries such as Costa Rica, the Philippines and Venezuela, more than half of the population reported that they were experiencing "tremendous" stress, making them among the most stressed countries in the world.
Most of us know that COVID-19 has exacerbated global stress levels, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety, depression and stress worldwide.
No matter where you live, your health and well-being depends on making sure your stress levels are under control. These six strategies, backed by research, will help -- as will BP.
Prioritize sleep. Stress can interfere with sleep. During times of stress, your body secretes adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones), which increase your heart rate and core temperature, making it difficult to sleep. On the other hand, sleep deprivation can also make you more vulnerable to stress.
"Our brains sometimes want us to go down this unproductive rabbit hole, but chances are you're not going to solve a big problem at 1 o 'clock in the morning," says Angela Ficken of LICSW, a Boston-based psychotherapist. "You need something boring to occupy your mind" so that you can fall asleep -- and stay asleep. Try mentally sorting through all the blue shirts in your closet or listening to a storytime podcast to help you fall asleep. Click here for additional tips.
Creating a sleep shelter is also important. Set up a schedule; Turn down the thermostat, install a shade to keep the room dark, turn on the white noise machine, and track your sleep with BP.
Try BP's sleep monitor function, which tracks your sleep every night to get a better idea of your sleep health and try to improve it.
Meditate. This is oft-cited advice for dealing with stress, because it works. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness meditation can reduce chronic stress levels by 25 percent after six months.
Dr. Alfie Brland-Noble, MHSc, psychologist and founder of the AAKOMA Project, an organization that supports the mental health needs of young people in BIPOC, calls deep breathing and mindfulness meditation "simple, portable, and feasible."
If traditional mindfulness meditation is overwhelming, Brand-Noble suggests a simpler exercise: Figure out what you can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell for which you're grateful. "The attention required to list everything is often enough to shift our focus from the stress to the present," she says.
When building your mindfulness practice, it's not necessary to go the traditional route -- it's important to find what works for you. Try turning a hike or walk into a moving meditation, or turn to a furry friend for help. Looking for more unexpected ways to find mindfulness? I see.
Set boundaries. Sometimes it's a headline about the state of the world that causes stress, sometimes it's your to-do list. If it's the latter, Fiken suggests setting boundaries and saying no to things that add extra stress.
"We all have our limits," Ficken said. "It's not OK to say things that cause more stress."
Ficken uses borderline statements like "Thank you very much for your question; I'm not available right now, "or" Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, that didn't work for me." Practice saying "no" to small things, and you'll feel more confident about establishing bigger boundaries. Learn more about how to set and maintain healthy boundaries here.
Broke a sweat. When you're feeling stressed, try not to give in to the temptation to hide under a blanket and binge watch crime dramas. Even a single exercise session can make you less responsive to stress.
You don't have to run a 5K or train for a triathlon to experience the stress benefits of exercise. Ken points out that all physical activities, from walking, swimming and yoga - yes, triathlons - have stress-reducing benefits. "Consciously taking care of your body has a direct impact on stress," she says.
Log off. Your device is perfect for texting friends, playing word games, reading the news, sending vacation photos and watching crime dramas, but you may end up spending too much time on the screen.
If watching cat videos for a few minutes will help you regain your composure, go for it, Ficken says. But be careful to minimize online activity that can raise blood pressure. Disabling notifications, deleting social media apps, and setting a timer to remind you to log out are all strategies that can help reduce your screen time.
No matter what screen you're looking at, Ficken recommends avoiding scrolling before bed if possible.
Screen time can make it harder to fall asleep, reduce the quality of your sleep and leave you feeling tired the next morning.
Ask for help. Pressure can be overwhelming. Instead of going alone, make an appointment with a health care professional or call the new number 988 to contact a mental health professional. "Normalizing asking for help is really important," says Brannoble.
People of color and marginalized groups, including LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities, face unique pressures related to racial trauma, homophobia, transphobia, and merit-based discrimination. According to Brand-Noble, it is critical to acknowledge these stressors and seek help when necessary.
For those experiencing stress, she suggests: "Start by finding a trustworthy person, talking to them, and connecting with them... Once we can acknowledge what needs to be addressed and we feel ready to address it, we can be better prepared to seek help from a mental health professional."