2018 is almost over, and now is the time when people start solidifying their new year’s resolutions. The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the past year and commit to making changes to improve your life, health and happiness.
In these increasingly busy times, one commitment that is sure to have a lasting effect on your health is the reduction of stress. Consistent feelings of stress can have disastrous effects on your physical and mental wellbeing. Fortunately, there are many simple ways to help minimize stress and live a healthier life in the new year!
The health dangers of stress
When you think of stress, you probably think about the toll it takes on your mental health more than anything. However, stress can have some long-lasting effects on your physical health, too. These health problems can, in turn, create more stress for you, which creates more health problems.
By tackling the major issue that is chronic stress, you can avoid health issues such as:
- Muscle tension and pain: When you’re actively stressed, your body might go into a “fight or flight” mode that raises your blood pressure and sends your mind spinning. It can also cause you to tense up—and people tend to hold this tension much longer than they realize. If your shoulders, neck and back are hurting, you might be holding a lot of tension you need to let loose.
- Chronic fatigue: Stress can make it difficult to get out of bed or perform the most basic daily activities due to fatigue. Chronic fatigue has many causes and is often worsened by stress because your body is busy trying to fight it.
- Immunity issues: When you’re severely stressed, you may be more susceptible to catching a cold or other illness. Stress can inhibit the immune system, making it less effective at fighting invaders.
- Depression or anxiety: Feelings of depression and anxiety might manifest or worsen from extreme stress. Many people with these mental illnesses find that their symptoms improve when they relieve stress.
- Focus problems: If you have trouble focusing on the task at hand or constantly feel like you have brain fog, stress might be to blame. When so much is running through your mind, it can be difficult to be productive.
- Irritability: People who are chronically stressed tend to lash out or get frustrated more easily at minor inconveniences. Irritability is a tell-tale sign of hidden problems like stress.
- Sleep problems: If you’re feeling stressed, you may not be able to sleep well at night. This can become a bigger problem over time because poor sleep can lead to your body’s inability to combat more stress.
- Major diseases: People who live very stressful lives are found to be more likely to suffer from diseases and long-term health problems like high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.
6 tips for de-stressing in the new year
Because stress can be so catastrophic for your health, it’s important to take action as soon as possible and actively work to combat stress in your day-to-day life. Many stress fighters also contribute to better health and wellness overall.
- Identify stressors: The first trick to minimizing your stress is to reflect on your daily life and identify the areas that cause you the most stress. If it’s possible, try to minimize those stressors or find ways to cope with them in the future.
- Exercise: Regular exercise—whether it’s a daily 3-mile run or a short 10-minute walk—can help combat stress and make you healthier overall. Exercise releases “happy hormones” called endorphins, which help to reduce stress in the body.
- Meditate: Deep breathing and meditation practices have been shown to improve feelings of stress over time. Try working in a short 15-minute meditation session before work, participating in weekly yoga or practice deep breathing exercises in stressful times.
- Take supplements: There are many natural supplements that can help you maintain healthy levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Take one of these daily to see long-term effects. Additionally, adaptogens—natural herbs that help your body “adapt” to the effects of stress and fatigue—can be added to smoothies, meals and teas to help manage stress.
- Find a creative outlet: Having a hobby you can turn to for regular entertainment and enjoyment can go a long way in reducing stress long-term. Everyone needs a little time for themselves once in a while, so make sure to find time for a creative outlet or hobby each week to blow off steam.
- Maintain healthy habits: It seems simple, but many people forget that healthy habits and stress are closely related. What you eat can have major effects on your mood and health, which can impact stress, so you should aim to eat a nutritious diet. Limit your intake of alcohol and tobacco and maintain healthy sleep and exercise routines to positively affect your health and stress levels.
Stress can put a damper on every part of your life. Fortunately, implementing even a few of these de-stressing techniques is simple and easy. Starting these in the new year can make 2019 one of your best years yet!