According to a New York Times poll, Americans are officially the most stressed people in the world. The findings reveal that as much as 55% of the population experiences stress during “a lot of the day,” compared to the global average of 35%. Another 45% said they feel “a lot of worry,” compared with the global rate of 39%. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. Per the report, Americans today feel more stress, anger and worry at the highest levels in a decade.
Stress has numerous adverse side effects on both your mental and physical health and your overall happiness. High blood pressure, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, constipation, nausea, loss of libido, heart disease and stroke are all common side effects of stress. If you live in a perpetual state of worry and anxiety, it may be time to slow down and take steps to improve your mental health today. Not sure where to begin? These tips can help.
Get Out and Move
The last thing you probably want to hear is that you need to exercise, but if you’re not moving enough, you may be your own worst enemy. Movement and exercise are the best ways to combat stress. The science behind this is clear: Exercise helps to release endorphins (the feel-good hormones) and lower cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormones), improve quality of sleep and boost confidence. Studies indicate, however, that benefits are strongest in those who exercise regularly.
For most people, stress stems from the constant demands of daily life. If your work, kids, spouse, social responsibilities, home maintenance and a slew of other things commandeer your attention almost every minute of every day, you owe it to yourself and your health to carve out time for yourself. Depending on your levels of stress, that may mean scheduling a spa day, taking a solo hike to a secluded area or scheduling a Puerto Vallarta cruise. The last option may seem over the top, but if your stress has already begun to affect your physical health, a week away may be just what the doctor ordered.
Choose Water Over Caffeine
The more you stress about what needs to be done, the more tempted you may be to down another cup of coffee. After all, coffee gives you the energy you need to get things done, right? Not necessarily.
Caffeine in high doses can cause anxiety, which can be counterproductive to your productivity. If you notice that you feel jittery, anxious or even more stressed out after consuming your daily two to three cups of coffee, put down the coffee carafe and reach for a glass of water instead.
Laughter has both short and long-term health benefits. Immediately after a good laugh, the mind and body undergo physical changes. For instance, laughter can enhance your intake of oxygen-rich air, which stimulates the heart, muscles and lungs and thereby, increases the number of endorphins that rush to your brain. Laughter can also reduce tension, relax the muscles and cool down the stress response.
The long-term benefits of laughter are also notable. A good guffaw can rid the mind of negative thoughts, which bring more stress to your bodily system and decrease your immunity. Laughter also encourages the development of natural painkillers, makes it easier to cope with difficult situations and reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Spend Time With Friends and Family
Men and women who lack social connections are more likely to suffer from stress, depression and anxiety. However, women in particular need social interaction. Studies show that women who spend time with children and friends experience a surge in oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This is due to a phenomenon called “tend and befriend,” which is opposite the body’s “fight or flight” response. Whether you’re a man or woman, however, you can benefit from the support of friends and family when going through stressful times.
You can’t avoid stress your whole life, but there’s no reason you need to let it consume you. If you experience stress more often than not, it may be time to evaluate your lifestyle and make permanent changes. In the meantime, use the tips above to begin lowering your stress levels today.