The yard, the chores, the appointments, the social life, everything that you cherish and maintain can add structure and joy to your day-to-day life; but when it all comes to a head at once, you’re likely to experience stress. April is national stress awareness month, and we here at Noble Companion are all too aware of the effects stress can have on a person's mental and physical health. So, this month, we’re going to be looking at stress, its’ effects, and ways of managing it so that you can continue to enjoy the routines you’ve become accustomed to!
So, what is stress? Well, to put it simply, stress is the body’s natural reaction to change. A little stress is a good thing, serving as a personal reminder or motivator to help us take on a daunting task ahead, but in some cases, stress can build up to a point that is unhealthy and damaging to all body systems. When stress reaches this boiling point, steps should be taken to remedy the causes of the stress and alleviate symptoms.
7 Stress Reduction Tips
- Exercise: Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first, exercise. Time and time again, no matter the ailment, health professionals suggest exercise as a treatment. Exercise is brutally effective in treating stress, as moving one's body helps reduce the amount of stress causing hormones while also raising the levels of natural dopamine which help soothe stress. This exercise doesn’t need to be anything specific or overly intense, start slow and find something that you might look forward to instead of following trendy regiments and unattainable goals.
- Sleep: Are you more of a night owl or a bright and early morning person? Regardless of which sleep schedule suits you best, getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night is tremendously beneficial in the management of stress. Even skipping a few hours of sleep each night can cause compounding effects on the body which reliably manifest as stress in our waking lives. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep when the time comes, try limiting large meals before bedtime and try to keep media consumption to a minimum, especially in the hour leading up to bedtime.
- Meditate: While the thought of meditation may sound foreign to many, the benefits of trying it out are universal. Meditation doesn’t require hours of sitting in silence, rather it can be accomplished in whatever position you find comfortable with the aim of allowing your mind to clear itself of thoughts. Trying meditation might teach you that your brain is much louder than you previously thought, with a flurry of intrusive nagging thoughts making it difficult to find yourself with a clear head. The more often you practice meditating, the less these thoughts will get in the way and in time you may find that meditating is your preferred way of clearing your mind during stressful times.
- Step away from the News: With news access now easier and more plentiful than ever before, many people find themselves at the constant whim of the “breaking news” cycle. The desire to stay informed has many merits, but when the constant flow of information never stops, stress will be the outcome. If you are like so many other Americans and find yourself engaged in a news cycle every day, try taking a break, or at least limiting consumption to a few minutes per day. Once you can take a step back and examine your own life, the stress of the news cycle will dissipate, and you’ll find yourself feeling much less stress than you otherwise would be.
- Stay Social: We here at Noble Companion know firsthand the effects that socializing can have on a person and their stress levels. Too much can be overwhelming, and not enough can be seriously damaging, so finding a balance while keeping a minimum level of socialization is crucial in the fight against stress. It has been found that up to 80% of seniors report feelings of social isolation, so check in with your aging loved ones and see how they’re doing with their social situations. If they are having trouble getting out, then you can always give us a call and start working towards a resolution to the stress they're facing.
- Be Creative: Not an artist? Not a worry! Try your hand at some creative expressions and find one that you enjoy. Engaging in creative or artsy activities has been linked to stress reduction in several ways, and finding time to express yourself can pay off in the long run if you can adhere to an art that you really enjoy.
- Eat the Stress Away: Is the food you eat eating you back? Not literally of course, but our diets play a crucial role in how our body interprets and manages stress. Too many sweets or highly processed foods can leave our bodies feeling empty and stressed out quickly after consuming them, while loading up on foods rich in essential nutrients, complex carbohydrates, and good fats can actively reduce stress by regulating blood sugar and cortisol in the body. Choose seeds and nuts, whole grains, fish, and tea if you’re looking to curb the experience of stress in your daily life.
So, during this first full month of Spring, take stock of the many moving parts in your life and think about how they’re affecting your stress levels. Though some things are guaranteed to bring stress to our lives, you can take steps to dampen their effects. Taking time to monitor and remedy your stress levels is sure to bring much more joy to your daily life and to the lives of those who care about you! And of course, if the stress of caregiving for your loved one is becoming too much, you can always give us here at Noble Companion a call for some help in lightening the load! Here’s to a mellow and Happy Spring!
- WebMD: How to Diet for Stress Management
- Utah State University: How Hobbies Improve Mental Health
- National Library of Medicine: Social Support and Resilience to Stress
- CDC: Tips for Coping with Stress
- Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
- Cleveland Clinic: Stress
- Mayo Clinic: Exercise and Stress
- American Psychology Association: Stress and Sleep