Stress, everywhere you turn it’s there—at work, at home, when we visit family, at the grocery store, even when we’re driving. Of course, there are even bigger life events that contribute to daily stress including changing jobs, moving, relationship problems, money and health issues. At times, it can seem that stress can be hard to shake. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Seven out of 10 adults in the United States say they experience daily stress or anxiety and that it interferes with their daily lives, according to a recent survey conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
While you may just think stress is part of life, left unchecked, daily stress can lead to serious health problems from heart disease and high blood pressure to infertility, insomnia, weight gain, depression and stomach and digestive issues. It can also be a precursor to addiction if we choose to reach for that glass of wine instead of going to the gym to relieve our stress.
So what to do about daily stress? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), you first need to recognize when you’re feeling stressed. Then, you need to choose a way or find some tools to deal with your stress. Although we can’t always avoid the things that cause stress—think family or work—we can try to change how we react to stress.
Here are some tips to help keep stress at a minimum:
Caffeine, usually in the form of coffee.
Coffee is a vehicle for caffeine that roughly 62% of us drink on a daily basis. Yet, while we drink it to boost our energy, it does come with a few pitfalls. It can cause anxiety and an increased heart rate. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association has added three related disorders to its list of official diagnoses: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-related anxiety, and caffeine-related sleep disorders. Caffeine affects each of us differently, but if you’re under extreme stress it’s best to keep your coffee drinking to a minimum.
Studies show that being active is good for both physical and mental health. Which means, it's also good for reducing stress. Exercise produces endorphins in the brain that reduce our perception of pain while also contributing to positive feelings often described as euphoric. What people term the “runner’s high” is thanks to endorphins. The outcome of this release of endorphins? Reduced stress, improved sleep and feelings of well being or improved self esteem. Accordingly, studies have also shown exercise to be affective at reducing fatigue and improving our overall cognitive functions. If weight management induces stress for you, then exercise can also help to put you on a healthy path and mitigate that stress.
Meditation and mindfulness.
This time tested practice doesn’t require a gym membership or special clothes. Nor is it based in religion. And it doesn't take long before you can see the benefit of a daily meditation practice. What does it involve? Sitting still. And then you can choose to stay silent, chant or listen to guided meditation. As you do, focus on breathing and relaxing. Let the worries of the day pass through your mind without commentary or judgment almost like you're watching traffic go by. Let thoughts, critiques and worries lessen their hold on your mind so that you can be more calm and present in your daily life. According to a recent review published in JAMA Internal Medicine, meditation can help to easy symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain.
Anything less than 7 hours of sleep a night can have serious consequences on our health, including increasing our levels of anxiety and depression and our ability to deal with stress. People who suffer from insomnia are 17 times more likely to suffer from anxiety than sound sleepers according to a study published in the journal Sleep. When we are sleep deprived we are less able to deal well with stress.
Eating healthy is also critical to a good state of mind. This includes limiting your intake of alcohol, sugar and processed foods (which are low in nutrient value). It also means increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and clean proteins such as fish or chicken. In a study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, participants were split into two groups. The first ate a diet of whole foods, while the second ate primarily processed foods. “Those who ate mostly whole foods had a 26 percent lower risk of future depression than those who ate fewer whole foods,” BBC News reports. “By contrast, people with a diet high in processed food had a 58 percent higher risk of depression than those who ate very few processed foods.”
Take your vitamins, especially Vitamin B.
It’s not always possible to get all of the vitamins and nutrients we need through food. When stress comes knocking on your door, that’s a key time to up your vitamin intake. The B vitamins play a key role in supporting our nervous system and helping to produce neurotransmitters, such as Serotonin, which promote feelings of well being. Deficiencies in certain B vitamins can lead to depression and a decreased ability to deal with stress. Taking a multivitamin can not only give you your Vitamin B dose, it can boost your immune system. Vitamins A, C, D, and E all are import in helping to alleviate stress while aiding immunity. A weakened immune system can increase your risk for illness. It also can cause stress and challenge your ability to deal with daily stress on an ongoing basis.