Stress. We all have it, and we all manage it differently. There's good stress and bad stress. In fact, a little bit of stress can actually be a good thing! Some people thrive with a consistent amount of stress in their lives. It can push you to meet a deadline or inspire some in-the-moment creativity.
However, when stress starts taking over your life, that's never a good thing. So it's important to know what's triggering your stress and what you can do about it. Here's your guide for dealing with stress so that it doesn't derail your healthy lifestyle.
Common Negative Side Effects of Stress
How do you know when stress is a bad thing? (Besides that feeling in your gut that tells you something is wrong.) Here's what to look for:
- Unintended weight gain
- Impaired ability to sleep
- Weakened immune system (getting sick all the time)
- Increased allergy attacks
- Memory loss or increased forgetfulness
- Hair loss
- Slow workout recovery
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Decreased sexual performance, erectile dysfunction and/or loss of libido
Top 10 Tips for Managing Your Stress
So now that you know you're facing down a wall of stress, what can you do? Here are a few tips to get it under control.
- Know thyself. Be aware of your stress triggers and be proactive in how you handle them. Try various stress-relieving techniques and take note of which one(s) work best for you. Maybe yoga is too much but deep breathing does the trick.
- Go work out. Exercise reduces stress hormones, boosts energy and releases endorphins. Even if it's just a walk around the block, you'll get outside, breathe fresh air, clear your head and get your heart rate up.
- Relax. Consciously controlling the way you react to stress can help minimize it. This could be as simple as stepping away from your computer to look out the window or you can take a meditation break. Or schedule yourself a spa day for a whole lotta zen.
- Stretch it out. When stress hits, your muscles tense up, so perform some basic stretches to stay loose. You don't have to be a yogi to get the benefits, and dynamic stretches or mobility drills help get your joints and muscles moving.
- Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water will help your body better handle the effects of stress. And limiting coffee, sodas and other sources of caffeine can help, too.
- LOL. A good laugh can counteract the effects of stress, so fire up your favorite comedy clips or visit your favorite funny websites for some quick comic relief.
- Find a friend. Studies have found that people who are more socially connected live longer, happier lives. So call up a buddy and grab lunch or go for a walk on the beach. (Bonus points for hugging! Physical contact is a huge stress reliever.)
- Journal. When life's stressors seem like too much to take, write it all out. There's catharsis in venting all of your frustrations onto the page. Plus, it might even help you come up with a creative solution.
- Breathe. You might be holding your breath or breathing irregularly without even realizing it. By focusing on your breath for a few minutes, you take your mind off your stress and flush your body with much-needed oxygen.
- Eat better. Nosh on foods like red grapefruit, steel-cut oatmeal, avocado and oysters, which all have proven stress-fighting benefits.
Manage your stress — don't let it manage you!