We're used to thinking of stress as something that just happens to us. But stress is a physiological and biochemical condition that we can control. There is much that we can do to prevent stress buildup.
Bad traffic and a poor performance review can create delays and frustrations, but it is our response to these situations that create stress.
Much like flossing and good dental hygiene can help prevent plaque buildup on your teeth, these habits that we're going to look at, can prevent stress buildup in your body.
Stress will hit you harder if you’re chronically sleep-deprived. While hustle-culture has made it cool to grind for 20 hours and sleep for 4, there’s nothing cool about the effects of chronic insomnia.
Loss of sleep can affect your motivation, physical and mental health, and every single facet of your life. So, if you’re struggling with this, start taking better care of yourself now by sorting out your sleep issues.
A good place to start is to figure out how many hours of sleep you need to perform at your best. You can conduct your own sleep study to find out how much sleep you need.
Or, you can start with these helpful sleep guidelines
Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
4 to 11 months: 12 to 16 hours
1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours
Meditation helps us navigate life with fewer hiccups and stress. If you’re new to meditation, try it with a friend or a group to improve your odds of sticking to it long enough to feel the benefits. Like the CEOs, athletes, and others with busy lives who have come to depend on it, you too may find meditation invaluable.
Your go-to way to decompress after a long day at work may be watching TV, but reading is a much healthier way to turn the page on stress. Reading not only calms the mind and relaxes the body, but it can also help prevent conditions caused by stress such as anxiety and insomnia. Reading before bed also gives you a better night’s sleep, something everyone can benefit from!
Set aside time each day for some personal care. Try taking a bath with Epsom salts to soothe your muscles, making yourself a cup of calming tea, taking extra time for your skincare routine, or doing some gentle yoga before bed. Whatever it may be that you enjoy as a destresser, doing something daily will help reduce stress buildup much like your daily oral care helps to prevent plaque buildup.
5. Confronting problems.
Ongoing problems need ongoing support. Chronic stressors like living with financial uncertainties, caring for a loved one, or managing a chronic health condition of your own, are inherently stressful and can have a huge impact on your quality of life. When not addressed, they can cause physiological and mental health problems that just encourage stress to stick around. Get help and create a plan to solve your problem. Create a plan to move from financial uncertainty to financial freedom, see if other family members can share the responsibilities of caring for loved ones, and find support groups and programs that offer some assistance. Your troubles won’t feel so stressful if you know you’re working to resolve them or you’re getting help along the way.
6. Stress supplements.
Did you know that low Vitamin D levels have been linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress? After my doctor, a naturopathic MD, recommended 5,000 IU of Vitamin D a day as part of my holistic thyroid treatment, I did some digging and learned about a slew of other supplements that help reduce stress. Consider Magnesium, Ashwagandha, valerian root, B12, and other stress supplements as one of your stress prevention aids.
Getting a workout isn’t just good for the body, it also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals! Who doesn’t want that? Exercising regularly helps you sleep better and will create a buffer against stress and anxiety. Cardio exercises and any activity that includes music, such as dancing, are especially joy-inducing.
8. Setting boundaries.
Maybe your to-do list is overwhelming because you’re too focused on helping others. In that case, setting boundaries will help and these are some of the ways you can do it:
Commit to a fraction of what is asked. If your brother who has a habit of forgetting to repay loans wants to borrow $100, give him a smaller amount that you wouldn’t mind losing if he never paid you back. Instead of agreeing to volunteer at the church bazaar for 5 hours, as asked, commit to 3 only.
Give yourself time to say no. Before you commit to invitations, consider whether you can spare the time.
Give something else. Instead of giving your time, consider giving money or vice versa.
Supporting others is beneficial in itself; setting boundaries will let you support them in a way that YOU are able to without your health and wellbeing at risk.
9. Plants and flowers.
An overwhelming amount of the stress we face is work-related. Until you can change roles, your employer or start your own business, try to minimize work-related stress right there in the office. By adding a plant (or 2) to your work area, you can! Indoor plants such as basil plants, snake plants, English Ivy, Chrysanthemum, and fragrant flowers create a healthy, breathable environment that helps to repel stress.
Mindset plays a significant role in how we respond to life’s daily stressors. Negative thinking can exaggerate our perceived shortcomings and make situations harder to process. Our mindset can make us more (or less) reactive. When we change our expectations, we won’t be let down as much. Pay attention to how you respond to stressful situations and interactions. Try being more positive and forgiving when things don’t go as planned.
Laughter can be a stress repellent, and that’s no joke. Here are some ways you can lighten up and bring more laughter into your everyday life:
Hang out with the easy-going crew
Go to comedy clubs and watch more stand-ups and comedies on TV
Subscribe to a joke a day
Wear the lighthearted costume of the season (the Witch’s Hat for Thanksgiving and the Santa hat at Christmas time)
Play with kids
Use a trampoline, buy some old-school in-line skates
Don’t take yourself (or the world) so seriously, and
Look for humor all around you.
12. Writing things down.
From the important things you need to handle each day to your worries, writing them down is one way to keep stress at arm’s length. Putting the important things you need to do on the calendar, increases the chances you’ll do it, and writing down your worries creates a record of what you need to work on. Something else to jot down is the things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude can reduce stress because it shifts your focus and your thoughts to what’s positive in your life.
If you were to use even a few of these strategies regularly, you will reduce stress, be healthier, more productive, and have more chill.