Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
In today's society, stress and change often are thought of as the same thing. Stress is a physiological and psychological response to situations the body and mind find to be overwhelming. We often ask ourselves how we should manage stress. Stress serves an important purpose—it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties (for example, anxiety and depression) or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with your ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover. Manage how you live with these five tips to feel less stressed:
- Use guided meditation. Guided meditation is a great way to distract yourself from the stress of day-to-day life. There are many guided meditations available on the internet that can help you find 5 minutes of centered relaxation.
- Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing is a great way to reduce the activation of your sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body's response to a perceived threat. Deep breaths taken in to a count of five seconds, held for two seconds and released to a count of five seconds, can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps reduce the overall stress and anxiety you may be experiencing.
- Maintain physical exercise and good nutrition. Physical exercise and nutrition are two important components in how you respond to stress. When your body is healthy, your mind can be healthy and vice versa. Physical exercise is proven to be a great stress reliever and also helps to improve your overall quality of life. Nutrition is important as stress can deplete certain vitamins, such as A, B complex, C and E. Maintaining proper nutrition not only helps your body feel better, but your mind as well, which allows you to better combat stress.
- Manage social media time. Spending time on social media sites can become stressful, not only by what we might see, but also because the time you are spending on social media might be best spent g visiting with friends, being outside enjoying the weather or reading a great book.
- Connect with others. Humans are social beings. You need to have connections with people to feel supported. Finding a sense of community — whether at work, with a religious organization, or through shared activities, such as organized sports — is important to your well-being. Enjoying a shared activity allows you to find support and foster relationships that can be supportive in difficult times. With the fast pace of work and home, and being constantly inundated with technology and still wanting to have time to connect with those around us.
Try these small steps to reduce your stress today!