8 Stress-Busting Tips from Experts
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Many Americans report extreme stress levels (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point
scale) and many say their stress levels have increased in the past year
Stress plays a major role in the health of your immune system, and can
impact your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, brain chemistry, blood sugar
levels, and hormonal balance
Actively managing your stress levels with exercise, staying positive,
connecting with others, engaging in hobbies, and spending time in nature are
crucial for optimal health
By Dr. Mercola
Every year, the American Psychological
Association (APA) conducts a survey on the impact of stress in America – and
as you may suspect, it’s substantial.
The latest survey found that many Americans are still reporting extreme
stress levels (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) and many say their stress
levels have increased in the past year. As APA notes:1
“Stress is so commonplace in American culture that a
Google search generates millions of results with essays, opinions and
missives on what stress is doing to us…
Survey findings illustrate a scenario in which Americans
consistently experience stress at levels higher than what they think is
healthy. And while the average level of stress may be declining, people
have a hard time achieving personal stress management goals…”
The fact of the matter is that stress management often takes a backseat to
the responsibilities of daily life, and many regard such ‘me time’ as an
indulgence that can only take place after everything else is ‘done.’ Of
course, ‘everything’ won’t ever be done, which is why it’s important to
weave stress relief into your daily grind such that you do it automatically
– like breathing and sleeping.
Yes, Stress Relief Is Really That Important
I’ve long said that managing your stress
levels is crucial to optimal health, and that is because all of your
feelings, positive or negative, create physiological changes. Your skin,
heart rate, digestion, joints, muscles, energy levels, the hair on your
head, and countless cells and systems you don't even know about change with
Stress plays a major role in your immune system, and can impact your blood
pressure, cholesterol levels, brain chemistry, blood sugar levels, and
hormonal balance, for instance. It can even “break” your heart, and is
increasingly being viewed as a cardiovascular risk marker.
Extreme, sudden stress like the loss of a loved one or a job can have near-immediate
impacts on your health, but so too can lingering everyday stressors that
we all juggle, particularly when they're not dealt with over time. This
causes your body to remain in "fight or flight" mode for far too long --
much longer than was ever intended from a biological standpoint.
One of the most common consequences of this scenario is that your adrenal
glands, faced with excessive stress and burden, become
overworked and fatigued. This can lead to a number of related health
conditions, including fatigue, autoimmune disorders, skin problems and more.
Stress has also been linked to cancer by
acting as a drive of cancerous mutations and multidrug resistance,
potentially triggering the growth of treatment-resistant tumors. And stress
even appears to be related to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, by
triggering a degenerative process in your brain and precipitating disruption
of your neuroendocrine and immune systems.2
In fact, stress, and by proxy your emotional health, is a
leading factor in virtually any disease or illness you can think of.
8 Expert Stress-Busting Tips
After you’ve gone to work, finished your
errands or household chores and gotten your kids to bed, many are simply too
tired to think about stress relief, so they zone out to mindless
entertainment or social media and go to bed feeling frazzled and anxious…
and not surprisingly start off the next day feeling much the same. It’s a
vicious cycle, but one that’s easily broken by turning stress management
into a habit.
You needn’t devote hours to stress relief every day. Instead, you’ll find
that activities you already do can work wonders for calming your nerves,
especially if you make a commitment to doing them on most days of the week.
Exercise affects a neurotransmitter that has an antidepressant-like
effect on your brain while helping to decrease muscle tension.3 Exercise
also guards against the adverse physical effects of stress. During
periods of high stress, those who exercised less frequently had 37
percent more physical symptoms than those who exercised more often.4
2. Spend Time in Nature
Going outdoors helps to relieve your stress naturally, with research
showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower in those who live in
areas with the most green space, as are their self-reported feelings of
five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.
3. Focus on Your Breathing
Learning to breathe mindfully can modify and accelerate your body's
inherent self-regulating physiological and bioenergetic mechanisms.
These changes are in large part due to the fact that you’re oxygenating
your body properly as well as correcting your internal and energetic
balance, and it has a direct impact on your nervous system. Ideally you
should be breathing primarily through your nose; learning a simple
technique called Buteyko
breathing can help you
restore normal and beneficial breathing patterns.
4. Participate in Activities You Enjoy
Engaging in a hobby gives you crucial time to play and
simply enjoy yourself. A hobby can take your mind off of stress and adds
more much-needed fun to your life.
5. Eat Right
Schedule time to eat without rushing, and make sure to maintain optimal
gut health by regularly consuming fermented foods, such as fermented
vegetables, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. Scientific
evidence shows that nourishing yourgut
flora with the friendly
bacteria within fermented
foods or probiotics is
extremely important for proper brain function, including psychological
well-being and mood control.
6. Stay Positive
This is a learned technique that can lead to a more joyful life and
likely much better health, as those who are optimistic have an easier
time dealing with stress, and are more inclined to open themselves up
for opportunities to have positive, regenerative experiences. Try
keeping a list of all that you’re grateful for and make a commitment to
stop any negative self-talk.
7. Stay Connected
Loneliness can be a major source of stress, so make a point to connect
with those around you – even a quick chat while in line at the grocery
store. Work your way up to volunteering, attending community events,
meeting acquaintances for coffee or taking a class to meet others with
8. Take a Break or Meditate
Taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you
can trigger your relaxation response.6 Meditatingduring
your breaks can help you to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety even
Have You Tried the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Yet?
Using techniques like energy psychology, you
can correct the emotional short-circuiting that contributes to your chronic
stress. My favorite technique for this is the Emotional
Freedom Technique (EFT), which is the largest and most popular version
of energy psychology. There are many derivatives of EFT and some likely work
even better -- but EFT is the one that I have the most experience with and
is the most established.
EFT was developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineer
specializing in healing and self-improvement. It’s akin to acupuncture,
which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body
along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy
meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while
simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. This can be done alone
or under the supervision of a qualified therapist.
By doing so, you help your body eliminate emotional “scarring” and reprogram
the way your body responds to emotional stressors. Since these stressors are
usually connected to physical problems, many people’s diseases and other
symptoms can improve or disappear as well. In the following video, EFT
therapist Julie Schiffman discusses EFT for stress relief. If you haven’t
yet tried it… why not?
7 More Stress
Management Tips to Try
Ultimately, the best stress management tool for
you is the one that works to
relieve your stress. Healthy diet, exercise, proper sleep, meditation and
EFT are among the best options, but there are many more. The chart below
offers more tips reported by the APA survey as being "believed to be
effective among those who use them." Choose whichever one (or a combination
of them) that appeals to you, and if you don't sense any benefits, try
another, until you find what works best for you.