By Hana Frenette
A study conducted by the American Psychological Association reported roughly 77% of Americans feel stressed regularly. Many people cited money and work expectations as their main cause of stress, but additional factors such as health, relationships and major life events were also common stressors.
Chronic, or constant stress has been linked to a wide range of health risks and can affect your overall mood, appetite, sleep patterns, gut function and heart health if not properly managed or reduced.
While many stressors aren’t entirely avoidable or within your control, managing your reaction to these experiences can help you create a happier, healthier and less stressful life. Substantial research shows the following activities have a major impact on your brain and positively affect the way your body responds to stress.
Moderate aerobic physical activity, like a brisk walk, jog, aerobics class or spin class, stimulates the brain’s release of endorphins, a “feel good” chemical that counteracts the body’s stress hormones and works as a natural mood booster, which helps keep anxiety at bay. Consistent exercise encourages your brain to regularly release endorphins and contributes to long-term stress and anxiety reduction.
Eat Healthy Foods
Diet plays a major role in overall health, happiness and overall cognitive function. Eating leafy greens, whole grains, lean meats and foods rich in vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and folate can greatly improve your mood and overall well-being. Healthy food choices help reduce inflammation, promote gut health and can also contribute to the regular release of serotonin in the brain.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Restful sleep is incredibly important for healthy brain function and stress reduction. Proper sleep allows the body and brain to repair themselves, making you better equipped to combat stressful situations.
If you’re feeling stressed, it might be tempting to pick up your phone and scroll through social media apps or check your email. The overstimulation from imagery, news and opinions can create new feelings of stress or exasperate existing worries. Try setting a few hours of screenless time throughout the day or in the evenings.
Spend Time Outside
Spending time in nature and green spaces has been linked to reduced levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can result in a more relaxed and calm state of mind. The scent of freshly-cut grass, flowers and sea air can also work as a natural form of aromatherapy, providing a calming effect and subtle mood boost while warding off feelings of worry.
Numerous studies have shown meditation can greatly reduce stress and anxiety by focusing your attention and calming racing thoughts. Just 10 minutes of meditation a day can contribute to lower stress hormones in the body.