If you feel stressed after a day at the office—or even just a busy one at home—you’re not alone. A recent study found that about 8 in 10 employed Americans felt stressed about their work. If you’re like most people, your instinct might be to pull up social media or flip on the TV, but depending on the day’s developments, that might even make things worse. Forget tech and media for a while and focus on yourself with a few of these proven stress relievers.
Meditation and Breathing
People fall into two categories, those who meditate and those who don’t. But once you do it, you’ll be amazed how drawn to it you’ll feel when stress crops up. A simple approach: Sit up straight with both feet on the floor, close your eyes and recite some positive expression. It can be something very simple like, “I am a good, loving person.” Place one hand on your belly to sync with your breathing and let distracting thoughts float away.
It might seem counter-intuititve to the no-tech approach, but some free apps can help you get into meditation. Many of them offer soothing background noises or even some guided meditative exercises. When not meditating, you can take an occasional break and simply breathe deeply. Sit straight up with your eyes closed and inhale slowly through your nose, feeling your breath moving from the abdomen to the top of your head. Exhale through your mouth.
Eat the Right Foods
Dark chocolate not only lowers your stress hormones but your blood pressure and cholesterol as well. Just try to limit yourself to no more than one or two ounces daily. Foods rich in omega-3s—like avocados and fatty fish—help lower stress, as do fruits containing vitamin C such as oranges, strawberries, and grapefruit.
A Media Detox
Today the average American spends about two hours daily on social media, and this exposure can trigger addictive and obsessive responses in the brain. Try a cell phone-free weekend, avoid social media for a day, or leave the TV turned off for an evening and settle in with a good book instead. You just might be surprised at how little you miss it.
You don’t have to have a full-blown workout to get moving! A brisk stroll, for example, releases a mix of endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, a combination that stimulates your brain and helps you feel better about yourself and your situation.
More Restful Sleep
Lack of sleep has been linked to lowered immunity, heart problems, and feelings of anxiety and depression. So to sleep better, skip the afternoon coffee, as caffeine can stay in your system at least six hours, and turn off all your electronic devices, including the TV, well before hitting the sack.
Is your body telling you you’re exhausted?
Stress can be a good thing—up to a point. It can help us get over a fear or provide the motivation to “push through” some demanding responsibility. But prolonged stress that stretches over weeks and months can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion, and potentially serious illnesses. It’s easy to ignore what our body is telling us and soldier on through what needs to get done, but it’s important to pay attention to the signs of exhaustion. Here are a few ways your body might be telling you that you’ve reached a tipping point and need a time out.
Failing Physical Health
When you’re overworked, you’re more likely to fall victim to colds, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and general aches and pains. Beyond these, too much stress can increase blood pressure and weaken your immune system, increasing the possibility of much more serious illnesses.
Change in Appetite
Food is essential to both nourish and energize your body. When you’re stressed and fatigued, your body’s first reaction is to shut down your appetite. But over time our body responds to prolonged stress by releasing cortisol—a stress hormone—and that can lead to increased hunger and a craving for unhealthy foods that are high in fat and sugar.
Change in Attitude
As a result of prolonged stress and the mental and emotional exhaustion that can accompany it, you may find that things you normally enjoy are now annoying and irritating. If things or people that you normally enjoy seem bothersome, there’s a good chance your body is telling you that you need a break. In that case, try to bring some stress-relieving techniques into your daily routine.
Declining Desire for Intimacy
Intimacy is a vital component of a healthy life, creating the bonds that make our lives truly meaningful. When we’re stressed over a prolonged period, our body reduces the production of the chemicals responsible for your desire for intimacy, and for most of us that’s a sure sign that some much-needed rest and relaxation are in order!
Be sure to pay attention to your mental state. If you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or have a shorter fuse than normal, those are all pretty good signs that a change is in order. Brain fog and difficulty concentrating are also ways your body is telling you that some type of rest is needed.