Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to completely eliminate stress from our lives?
Unfortunately, we seem to be heading towards more of it, not less. Stress affects all of us at varying levels and stages of life.
And the best we can do is learn how to manage it.
But one thing I’ve learned is that it’s far better to do a mix of little things to reduce stress rather than allow it to build up and then try to relax.
So in this article, I’ll share 10 simple habits that, if done consistently, will reduce your stress levels in no time. Let’s dive in:
1) Regular exercise
If you’re anything like me, you want solutions fast. Perhaps you’re still reeling from the stress of Xmas and that’s how you’ve found yourself reading this article.
Well, I’ve got you covered. We’re starting with exercise, but honestly, all the points below can be put into effect immediately.
But the thing I love about this point is that it gives instant relief.
And no, I’m not going to advise you to join the gym alongside everyone else this month.
All I want you to do is move your body however you feel fit.
Dance in your living room to your favorite songs, go for a long walk, or lay on a mat and stretch your muscles to one of the many YouTube videos out there.
You see, exercise of any form boosts endorphins – these are the feel-good chemicals that we miss when we’re feeling stressed.
Give it a go – do 20-30 minutes of any movement of your choice, and take note of how you feel before and after.
2) Meditation and deep breathing
I’ll be honest, I haven’t found my flow with meditation yet, but I know many people find it highly relaxing and grounding.
So rather than try to sound like an expert on it, I’ll leave this link here to an excellent guide to help you get started on meditation (hopefully, you’ll have more patience and perseverance than me!).
But deep breathing, on the other hand, is something I’ve done plenty of.
And I’ve got to say, in moments of extreme stress or if I’m finding it hard to quieten my mind, this really helps.
Essentially, you’ve got to breathe deep into your belly. Place your hand on your stomach to feel the air as it expands and falls. Inhale and exhale slowly, and repeat until you feel your body relax.
As the University of Toledo notes:
“Deep breathing and relaxation activate the other part of your nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a signal to your brain to tell the anxious part that you’re safe and don’t need to use the fight, flight, or freeze response.”
3) Eating well and drinking enough water
Forget eating well to lose the holiday weight, eating healthily is essential if you want to feel less stressed.
I know it’s winter, it’s cold and dark, and those choccies and crisps look oh so tempting.
But they don’t do anything to make you feel good on the inside.
Instead, you need to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
And most importantly, avoid excessive caffeine and sugar.
Personally, I believe everything in moderation is the way to go.
So if you currently drink 5 coffees a day, consider reducing it to two. And replace the others you’d normally have with a healthy smoothie or some refreshing water.
Ultimately, the better you eat, the more your immune system is supported. And that extra energy will do wonders in reducing stress levels.
4) Carving out time for family and friends
This is another simple habit that, if you do it properly, will have a huge impact on your stress levels…
But you’ve got to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with the right people! Not Debbie Downers or people who suck your energy and make you feel more stressed.
As MentalHelp explains:
“Social support seems to affect our balance of hormones. Adequate amounts of social support are associated with increases in levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which functions to decrease anxiety levels and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system calming down responses.”
So make it a new habit.
Even if you’re busy, we can all find ways to spend some time each day with a close friend or family member. Even if it’s just a quick video call or sending someone a message.
5) Making time for yourself, too
And while you’re prioritizing your loved ones, don’t forget yourself, too.
Carving out a little bit of time each day for something you want to do is also an incredible way to reduce stress.
For example, last week I could feel my stress levels rising. A lack of routine, family drama, and work looming in on Monday wasn’t a fun combination.
So I took an evening for myself. Canceled all plans, watched a movie, ate my favorite meal, and then soaked in the shower for too long, singing along to Tracey Chapman songs.
And trust me when I say I felt tons lighter afterward.
It was a reminder to me, too, that a little “me time” every day, even if it’s just one little thing a day, is worth doing to reduce stress levels.
6) Digital detoxing
Ah, now time for one of my favorites – turning off technology!
Most of us don’t realize just how overwhelming and overloading social media, the news, and our gadgets in general are.
But think about it this way:
You’re constantly accessible. You’re constantly able to view the lives of millions of people online, most of whom you don’t even know. And the news? Well, the fact it’s available 24/7 now is just another stressor in our lives.
So turn it all off.
Don’t allow the algorithms to control you – YOU decide when enough is enough.
I’ve taken to blocking out a few hours a day when I don’t touch my phone. This allows me to get on with other tasks, and unsurprisingly, I’m less stressed as I accomplish more each day!
7) Spending time in nature
Now, let’s combine a few points into one – consider asking a friend to go for a walk in the local park, forest, or beach.
That way you get the socialization, you get the exercise in, and you allow yourself to be one with nature.
Which, if you didn’t know, is one of the best cures for stress. In fact, just 20 minutes a day can work wonders.
Another way to work in nature time is to switch up your routine. If you usually eat lunch in the staff room at work or at your desk, why not go and sit outside?
Or, if you’re able to, walk to certain destinations rather than take the bus or car. One thing you’ll find about fresh air and nature is that they often help with getting the following:
8) Sufficient sleep every night
Sleep isn’t something that you can neglect for weeks on end and then hope that one weekend of catching up will do the trick.
And it’s important to note that a lack of sleep can greatly increase your stress levels.
As a light sleeper, I struggle to sleep well in general. But by sticking to a rough routine, and playing things like white noise on my phone, I’ve managed to improve.
Other things like keeping the room cool (cracking open a window), sleeping in the dark (turning off the TV, etc), and avoiding caffeine before bed also help.
Ultimately, we all feel much better when we’ve slept well, so this isn’t a point to take lightly!
9) Better time management
By getting into the habit of planning out your time, you can significantly reduce your stress levels.
Once you’ve finished reading this article, sit down and map out what needs to be done tomorrow.
Get your most important tasks out of the way, and if you have to, plan when you’re going to spend time relaxing, exercising, or catching up with friends.
The truth is, when you make this a regular habit, you’ll notice how much more productive you become.
Not only that, but you can save yourself the stress of things piling up on you, and by seeing your plan listed out, you’ll already feel more in control of your days.
10) Fun hobbies
Now, to end on a lighter note (since planning isn’t the most riveting thing in the world!) – let’s talk about hobbies.
In particular, the fun kind!
If you don’t have any hobbies, it’s time to find some. Paint by numbers, gardening, archery, upcycling furniture, skateboarding, whatever takes your fancy, make sure you get into the habit of doing it.
Even if it’s just for half an hour in the evening, by doing something you love, you’ll find your stress levels decrease in no time.
And you can even consider this as part of your “me time” as we discussed earlier.
So, I hope this article has given you some food for thought. Stress will always find us, but if we follow the tips above, we’ll be on track to deal with it, rather than suffer from it.
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