6 Long-Term Stress Management Tips

Originally found on https://www.everydayhealth.com/stress/guide/relief/

1. Make exercise a regular part of your week. A host of studies has shown that working up a sweat is not only good for your body and your brain — exercise also reduces stress. Aim for 150 minutes of movement a week, and consider trying a group class at your local fitness center. A study published in November 2017 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that people who participated in group fitness classes lowered their perceived stress and increased their physical, mental, and emotional quality of life compared with people who worked out solo.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s something you enjoy. “Exercise doesn’t have to be intense, and you don’t have to join a gym,” says Haythe. “I tell my patients to buy a pair of sneakers and start walking for 15 to 20 minutes a day.”

2. Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs to ease your stress. It may be tempting to cap a stressful day with a generous pour of cabernet (or whatever your substance of choice), but experts agree that alcohol, drugs, and even junk food are not great ways to ease tension, especially on a long-term basis. “It’s one thing to have a glass of wine for enjoyment and another to rely on it as a coping mechanism,” says Gupta. “Ideally, you want to find a solution that is good for your health over the long term.”

The question to ask yourself is: Am I reaching for booze, drugs, or junk food automatically? If the answer is yes, it’s time to reassess, says Dossett. Another reason to avoid using alcohol to calm you down: It can interfere with a good night’s sleep, which ultimately creates more stress

3. Do some Downward Dogs — or cognitive therapy. Incorporating yoga into your fitness routine is a good way to add some mindfulness to your day. “Yoga is not just about physical postures; it’s also about meditation and breathing techniques, all of which can reduce stress,” says Dossett. “If you focus on being present in the moment, paying attention to your breath and your body rather than what the person on the next mat is doing, yoga can be profoundly relaxing.”

study done by researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden found that both yoga practice and cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy in which you learn to change negative thoughts and behaviors to help you respond differently to situations, are effective ways of managing stress.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy and other practical strategies such as problem-solving, time management, and mind-body techniques like yoga can all help us respond more thoughtfully to stress,” says Gupta.

4. Try some mindfulness. Learning to ground yourself in the present moment rather than worrying about the future or the past is an effective way of reducing stress, say experts. A study published in January 2017 in Psychiatry Research found that people with an anxiety disorder who took a course in mindfulness meditation — a practice rooted in Eastern traditions in which you focus on a single point of reference such as breath, bodily sensations, or a word or a phrase — showed decreased levels of stress hormones and inflammatory markers in the body.

“Learning to stay in the present moment breaks the train of everyday thought that can stress you out,” says Dossett. “Whether you’re meditating, doing yoga, or taking a walk, if you pay attention to your body and your breath, you can’t be worrying about something else.” (Meditation apps can help here, too.)

5. Spend time with both human and furry friends. Social support and less stress go hand in hand. “Spending time with family or friends who make you feel good, or finding a community with whom you share interests or spiritual beliefs, reduces stress,” says Gupta.

Pets help ease stress, too. A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that, compared with people without pets, pet owners had a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure, particularly when pets were actually in the room. “It’s easy to become socially isolated, especially with more of us spending longer hours at work,” says Gupta. That’s why it’s important to seek out companionship and unconditional love from your besties, whether those happen to be on two legs or four.

6. Eat well and sleep more. “When you’re stressed, it’s easy to give in to cravings for sugar and carbs — after all, they give you the kind of energy that allowed our ancestors to escape from saber-toothed tigers,” says Dossett. But after the sugar rush comes the crash. “These ebbs and flows in energy contribute to stress.” She recommends sticking with a Mediterranean diet that’s rich in fruit and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein.

It’s important, too, to get enough sleep. “People get far less sleep than they should,” says Gupta. Ideally, she recommends aiming for seven to nine hours a night. Think you don’t have time to allot to eating healthier and sleeping more? Says Dossett: “Look at it this way. You don’t have time to be sick, either.” The investment it takes to do a little exercising, meditating, and, yes, napping, will more than pay for itself.

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