By Zora Benhamou, Hack My Age

Your partner is upset with you, but you’re not sure why. The kids won’t stop making noise, and your boss keeps piling on assignment after assignment. How do you feel? Stressed? People have different stress triggers, and your levels of stress depend on your personality and how you react to certain situations. For some, life and work stresses are small annoyances that don’t stop them from being happy. Other people worry themselves sick.

Stress isn’t always bad

It’s important to realise that stress is part of everyday life. The right kind of stress is useful! Without it, we’d never be motivated at work or care what our loved ones think, and we wouldn’t be able to deal with dangerous situations.

One interesting study highlights the idea that stress is only a problem if you perceive it to be that way. The negative effects of stress are evident, but only if you believe them to be. Or, as health and fitness professional Mark Sisson puts it, “Stressing over stress is what makes stress so stressful.”

Chronic stress and ageing

Chronic stress is a grinding, unrelenting and destructive force that wears people down over time. In addition to the damage chronic stress causes to relationships, careers and families, it is also linked to accelerated ageing and has a significant impact on youth preservation.

When you learn how to identify stressors in your life, you have the opportunity to begin managing them. Stressors come in many forms and include big worries such as money, career and relationship troubles. Smaller issues, like an endless to-do list or a tiring commute, can also build up over time.

I’m going to examine five useful ways to reduce the stressors in your life, but it’s also important to acknowledge the role any kind of routine plays in stress management. Routine reduces the anxiety of the new. When you have fewer unpleasant surprises, you have less unexpected stress. Whichever stress-relieving techniques you choose to incorporate into your life, focus on creating a long-term routine and stick to it.

Long-term strategies to reduce stress

1) Exercise

Obviously, exercise increases your overall health, but it’s also a fantastic stress buster.

Sticking to a regular exercise routine will increase your fitness, leading to improved self-confidence. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often another casualty of stress and depression.

Physical movement helps to increase the production of your brain’s feel-good chemicals, endorphins. Plus, concentrating on playing a sport or working out takes your mind off the day’s irritations and anxiety. Jogging, tennis, football, hiking – pick something you like to do and get moving!

Exercise doesn’t always have to mean a high-impact, full-on workout. You don’t need to be training for a triathlon or powerlifting your way to glory. Take a break at work, walk around the office, run up a flight of stairs – a burst of physical activity gets your blood moving, expels excess adrenaline and brings immediate relief from a stressful situation.

2) Yoga

Yoga is just one way to practise the concept of mindfulness. It’s one of the most effective, long-term strategies for reducing stress.

The beauty of yoga is its accessibility – almost anyone can do it. Yoga’s controlled breathing exercises and inventive physical poses are designed to increase strength and flexibility. Linked to yoga’s stress-reducing effects is an ability to lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

If you’re choosing yoga as a way to relax and unwind, it’s important to make it a regular part of your weekly schedule and stick to it. Put it in your diary or mark it on your calendar.

Don’t hold onto any preconceptions about yoga. You don’t need to be flexible to do it! There are classes to suit all levels (even online), and because of all the different types of yoga, you can try various groups until you find the right one for you.

Check out the seven most important yoga positions for relaxation by Freedom Genesis.

3) Meditation

At its most basic, meditation is simply taking a break from your daily activities and helping the mind to find peace and quiet. Meditation has been shown to improve mental alertness and help people to overcome various problems such as anxiety, depression and more.

There are only three things you need to do to meditate correctly: find a quiet space, close your eyes and breathe deeply and detach your mind from the physical world. Meditations are excellent destressors because they can be customised to include whatever is most relevant for you.

Just like yoga, there are different types of meditation, but one of the most popular is mindfulness meditation, which helps us to reduce stress by becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings.

A few minutes of practice per day can help to ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman.

4) Nutrient-rich diet

Unhealthy stress and poor eating habits are related. We often forget to eat well when we’re overwhelmed and resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as pick-me-ups. Nutrients like trace minerals, healthy fats, electrolytes, essential vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants all help us to better handle stress.

Plan ahead and try to avoid sugary snacks. Fruits, vegetables and nuts are smart choices, while eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids reduces the symptoms of stress. Salmon, sardines and other cold-water fish can also reduce inflammation and are great for heart health.

Magnesium and calcium are important for relieving headaches, relaxing muscles and helping you to sleep. I am a big fan of magnesium oil. I spray it on my chest and joints and even drop some in the bathtub to relax.

Make sure to eat plenty of leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale and pak choi. An added anti-ageing benefit of cruciferous vegetables is their ability to reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the overload of harmful molecules called free radicals.

5) Journals

The ancient tradition of journaling dates back to at least 10th-century Japan. When writing, you access your left brain, which is the rational and analytical side. Your right brain is free to feel, create and comprehend. Writing allows you to better understand yourself and the world around you.

A journal is an efficient, easy way to track your state of mind throughout the day, highlight moments that cause you stress and decipher what’s aggravating you when you’re unsure. Write your frustrations down by hand and let your journal map out the reasons for your stress.

If you’re not sure where to start with your journal writing, you could always begin by creating a vision board. Simply write down your goals and place them on a board you look at every day. Use photographs and images to visually remind yourself of what’s important and how you want to feel. A vision board is a regular reminder of what you want to accomplish and a reflective tool to help to reset your thoughts and emotions.

Journals can also help you to stay organised. Making a note of job assignments, household responsibilities and appointments will leave you feeling less frantic and reduce stress.

But journals don’t necessarily have to focus on the stress and turmoil in your life. A gratitude journal helps to cancel out negative thoughts and worries by celebrating positive moments and experiences. All the little things count!

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