It probably comes as no surprise that stress affects your body in many scary ways, but what is surprising is just how much. Headaches, fatigue, upset stomach and muscle pain can all result from being overloaded with it.
Left unchecked, stress can lead to even more significant health problems like hypertension, heart attack, stroke and other dangerous diseases. Along with the physical effects, unmanaged stress also takes a toll on your mental health. Aside from limiting your ability to think and function effectively, it can also lead to anger, depression and anxiety.
There are simple things you can do to relieve some of that stress, allowing you to enjoy life more and give your happiness hormones a boost.
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Though you probably don’t want to add to your nervous anticipation or physical symptoms of anxiety by overthinking an upcoming stressful event, it’s helpful to be prepared for it. If you know something stressful lies ahead, like interviewing for a job or moving someplace new, visualize how you’re going to handle it ahead of time and do a mental rehearsal of all possible scenarios in order to have a more positive approach.
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Whether you’re trying to boost productivity at work or have other pressing demands, it’s important to be realistic about what you can and can’t accomplish. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can be helpful to work on time-management skills by setting goals and expectations that are reasonable to meet, along with making a priority list to ensure the most important things get done.
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Even if it feels like you are too overwhelmed by life’s demands to engage in a hobby, having one can help relieve stress. It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up a new hobby after turning 40 or devoting more time to the ones you’re already involved in, carving out dedicated time to do something for yourself not only can make you feel better, but also has been shown to help lower blood pressure, build muscle and help increase energy.
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Ignoring conflicts is just one of the many toxic habits that can hurt a relationship and can lead to added stress. Since no two people always agree on everything, it’s important to address conflict when it crops up, instead of letting it linger. Healthy ways to work through conflict include remaining calm, empathizing with the other person’s viewpoint and being willing to compromise.
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There’s something to be said about not sweating the small stuff. According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly 80% of people report regularly experiencing physical symptoms of stress and 73% experience psychological ones. Try focusing less on little details like a sink full of dirty dishes and more on the important things like how to have a better relationship with your kids or spouse.
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There’s a reason doctors and mental health providers recommend meditation — it’s good for you. Not only is it one of the ways you can do a mental detox, but it also helps reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, and can provide a sense of calm and increase patience. Meditating also has physical benefits including helping manage symptoms of asthma, cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
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Considered one of the best exercises for weight loss, walking regularly has countless health benefits like helping to prevent heart disease and high blood pressure. Walks outside can also change your life by boosting your mood and helping manage stress. It doesn’t have to be a long one either, a 30-minute brisk walk can give you a much-needed break.
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When things are rough at work or home, it can help to reach out to a friend or loved one. According to the American Psychological Association, it’s a good idea to be strategic in choosing who it is depending on what you need. If it’s to get things off your chest, pick someone who’s a good listener. If it’s practical help, like enlisting a babysitter because you’re working from home with kids, then seek out a friend or relative who can provide it.
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There are a lot of good things that happen to your body when you get enough sleep, and a reduction in stress is one of them. Sleeping on it can also be especially useful when dealing with work situations. If it isn’t pressing, sometimes it’s best to give it a night before responding to a stressful email from the boss or trying to manage an upsetting situation. It can help defuse stress in the moment and provide fresh perspective in the morning.
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A healthy diet isn’t just about eating the best foods for weight loss, it’s also a big part of overall wellness and can help manage stress. Your body reacts to stressful situations by releasing cortisol and adrenaline, which among other things, can affect your digestion, causing sugar cravings or loss of appetite. A nutritional diet can help offset some of those effects along with giving you the energy you need to deal with difficult situations.
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Your favorite dog breed or other four-legged, furry companion might be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to helping lower stress. Research suggests that interacting with animals can help decrease stress-related hormones along with helping to lower blood pressure, reduce loneliness and improve your mood. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting or fostering one from an animal shelter. Even if you’re allergic, there are a variety of hypoallergenic dog breeds that won’t make you sneeze.
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Everyone knows that a high-energy playlist can help motivate you when you’re working out at home, but the right playlist can also help combat the effects of stress. While there isn't a one-size-fits-all when it comes to music, research suggests that slower-tempo music can help calm your brain. Examples of relaxing music include Celtic, classical and light jazz.
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When you feel completely overwhelmed, just stop and take a deep breath. Though it seems like such a simple thing, deep breathing for relaxation has been shown to help improve your sense of well-being, along with improving your heart rate, blood pressure, mood and perceived stress.
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One life lesson your parents may have taught you was to not talk to yourself, but research suggests that it might be beneficial. A study published in Scientific Reports finds that self-talk can increase your ability to control your thoughts and behavior under stress. That self-talk, however, should be positive and encouraging, not critical.
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Being faced with an overwhelming task like organizing your inbox or completing a work project can be daunting for the most efficient people, let alone those who suffer from time mismanagement. To avoid getting completely stressed over it, try breaking it up into smaller parts. Look at the end goal, then figure out each of the steps to get there and how to accomplish them, one by one.
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Everyone gets upset once in a while, especially when stress is high. Though it can be tempting to let it all out in an angry outburst, yelling at someone can be a sign that your relationship is toxic and isn’t the best way to handle it. Instead, try slowly counting to 10. It might be just the time you need to regroup and address the situation calmly.
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What do stress and gratitude have in common? More than you think. When you focus on the negative, it can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Retraining your brain to think about the good things in your life has been shown to increase happiness, improve your overall health and reduce stress.
Focusing on the positive doesn’t have to be difficult, there are many ways of showing gratitude including letting people know how much they matter to you and acknowledging the good things about yourself.
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You don’t need to look far to find happy shows to stream and doing so might just be the mental break you need. It can help you focus on something different and research shows that laughter is therapeutic. A study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine finds that laughter has both mental and physical benefits like alleviating stress and increasing pain tolerance.
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Understanding what causes your stress level to skyrocket can help you better deal with it when it happens, according to the American Psychological Association. Throughout your day, keep track of moments that increase your stress level like worries about your job or conflict with a friend. Once you’re able to identify common triggers, it’s easier to come up with a plan for what to do about them.
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There are any number of things that can create stress in your life. That’s why it’s important to evaluate exactly what’s causing the problem and, if possible, eliminate it. Because certain problems or situations are unavoidable — like unexpected unemployment or having issues with loved ones or family members — try approaching them from a different perspective or ask for outside help in figuring them out.
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You don’t need to hike the longest trails in the world in order to reap the benefits of being outdoors. In fact, it can be as simple as gardening in your backyard or just spending a few minutes each day enjoying some fresh air. According to the American Heart Association, spending time in nature can help increase happiness and decrease anxiety and stress.
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For a lot of people, saying “no” to doing something or to someone is one of the most difficult things to do. But while agreeing is often easier in the moment, in the long run, it can lead to being overburdened with obligations and commitments, causing untold stress. Learning to say “no” when the situation calls for it is a healthy habit that everyone should practice and can help prevent both stress and anxiety.
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Because life is completely unpredictable, it’s important to control the controllables that make it more difficult along with accepting what you can’t change. If you’ve suddenly found yourself working from home or unexpectedly laid off, don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself or others, instead, look for ways to compromise when possible and be flexible.
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Many of the muscles in your body tense up when you’re feeling stressed out, causing pain in your back, neck, shoulders and other places. An easy way to help relieve tension is by doing some stretching. It’s not difficult to incorporate into your daily routine if you know how to stretch your neck, legs and everything else.
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