We all experience stress at various points in our lives. Our fight or flight response helps us avoid danger, but modern life causes our stress response to activate for non-life-threatening situations, too. If a bear is attacking you, you want to get a life-saving adrenaline rush. Unfortunately, some of us have a similar flood of stress hormones when we log in to our email in the morning.
Resolve to take on some stress-busting habits in 2018, and your body will thank you. Stress is at the root of so many health problems. Cardiovascular disease, obesity, GI problems, and asthma can be aggravated by stress. Your immune system isn’t as effective when you’re anxious, which leaves you vulnerable to illness more often than not. It’s crucial to commit to stopping stress in its tracks.
Be more active
One of the best ways to alleviate stress is through exercise. Whether you’re figuring out how to do more pull ups each day, adding intramural sports to your schedule, visiting the gym several times per week, or just making time to walk, you’ll be amazed at the positive impact exercise can have.
Our bodies are meant to be in motion, but often our jobs require us to sit for long periods of time. When we see a pile of work on our desks, our bodies may respond by releasing cortisol, a stress hormone. If we don’t find ways to burn off this extra energy, we’re left feeling uncomfortable, and we risk negative effects on our long-term health.
Add mindfulness practices to your day
Mindfulness has become a buzzword these days, and it’s with good reason. We all could stand to learn a few mindfulness practices that can reshape the way that we interact with our world.
The most obvious technique, meditation, is proven to lead to improved health and brain function. Meditation can rewire your brain to respond to stress in a different way. Meditating is wonderful for you, but it does take some practice. At first, it will be hard to sit for more than five minutes at a time, but if you continue to practice, you’ll be able to sit for longer.
Breathing exercises are another mindfulness practice that can engage your parasympathetic nervous system and disengage your sympathetic nervous system. (The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for symptoms of stress and anxiety. The parasympathetic nervous system governs relaxation.) Simple exercises like equal-parts breathing can be done any time you feel signs of stress.
Practicing yoga incorporates elements of mindfulness, meditation, and physical activity, which makes it a great stress-reliever as well.
Nurture your inner creative genius
Creativity reduces stress. You may not identify as a creative person, but most of us gain some satisfaction from making things. Being creative doesn’t look the same for all of us. Some people may express it through cooking, art, music, or writing. Just taking the time to journal about your day is a form of creativity.
Focusing on a creative project can induce a “flow” state which leads to an improved quality of life. People who do creative activities regularly experience less stress and improved health. These people actually live longer than people who don’t routinely take on creative projects. You don’t have to be Picasso to experience positive health effects. It’s the act of creating that provides the benefit–not the outcome.
Stay calm in 2018
So much of what’s happening in the world is outside of your control, but you can find ways to manage your responses to these things. By exercising, committing to mindfulness practices, and trying your hand at creative endeavors, you can experience a calm 2018. Reducing stress today will leave you healthier and happier for years to come.