Stress kills. It’s a fact, but we nonetheless shrug it off. Maybe we assume it’s an exaggerated claim made from the results of cherry-picked studies. Or perhaps we don’t so much have an issue with the science, but we just assume that it doesn’t apply to us; that our stress is perfectly manageable and gives us the edge we need at work, at play or in our active endeavors. And it’s certainly true that in small enough doses stress can be good for us. It can keep us from sliding into apathy, it can sharpen our instincts, help us think on our feet and bring out the best in us.
However, what about when we experience stress in bigger doses. Especially in 2020. Think about it! In the COVID age, we could see every stranger on the street as a potentially deadly threat to our health. We’re constantly surrounded by screens, with ads (and health warnings) on every conceivable medium trying to engage our attention. Add the stress of work, the interpersonal dramas of our friendship groups and the struggles that come with having a family or relationships and you have a recipe for stress that can directly lead to ill health.
Why Stress Ban be Deadly: the Science
When we experience stressful situations on a regular basis, it triggers the body’s inflammatory response. This is usually a reaction to injury and a natural part of the healing process. But stress can cause unnecessary inflammation. Over time, the inflammation caused by stress can make us vulnerable to a range of diseases including heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Increased stress can also lower our immune response, affect our appetite (stress eating, anyone?) sleep quality and overall mood.
So, what can you do to prevent stress from taking over your life? Let’s look at some best tips and tricks to reduce stress, feel calm, and overturn those negative stress effects…
Create Time to Exercise
Exercise is a great way to work off the stress of the day. Or launch you into each day with energy and clarity! Exercise floods the brain with stress-busting natural chemicals aka endorphins, like serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine. Of course, finding time to exercise when you lead a busy life can be challenging. I have some tips for this right here.
The presence of plants in your home and workspace is proven to improve focus, reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Studies show that looking at plants for just 3 minutes can help to alleviate stress. My friend just sent me an amazing succulent as a wedding present from @plantinghopela an amazing company through which, with every plant purchased, meals are donated to the homeless shelter for boys that the founders started.
Set an Alarm 2-3x a Day to Just Breathe
When the alarm goes off, stop whatever you are doing… stressed or not, and take 5 deeeeep breaths, breathing in for 5 and out for 7. A longer exhale helps our body settle into relaxation response.
For additional calming, using a cbdluxe inhaler in times of stress can also help. This can support staying focused and positive too; without changing your mental state (because it’s free of THC).
Embrace Your Family and Friends
Of course, plants aren’t the only things you should embrace if you want to relieve stress. We all know the healing power of hugs. Make sure you have someone to hug every day to help your stress melt away.
Walk Barefoot in the Grass
No kidding, there are also studies to suggest that walking barefoot in the grass for just 15 minutes every day can help undo damage caused to your body by free radicals and reduce inflammation, not to mention helping you feel calmer and happier. Don’t believe me? Look into the health benefits of “grounding” for yourself!
Practice Letting Go of Your “Self-Chosen” Stressors
A key skill in relieving stress, is learning how to recognize it, pause, and respond intentionally. Think of when you’re driving in traffic. You’re already running late. You feel your frustration elevate. Someone cuts you off… now you’re ready to explode!
All of a sudden, you look at the person in the lane next to you… they are singing to themselves, smiling, having the best time ever. This is my “positive polly and negative nancy” analogy.
Yes, there are things in life that inevitably come with stress… like COVID, like moving, like relationships, work, kids, etc… and, there is also an opportunity to notice how we are responding to it all. If we’re constantly responding as “Negative Nancy”… stress will elevate. And it’s ok if that feels like you sometimes, our human brain WANTS to default to negative.
Simply practice taking a beat in a stressful situation. Breathe. Give yourself space and time to sit with why you are feeling upset or stressed, and practice asking yourself “what would a positive polly do right now?”