Many behaviors that effectively reduce stress can also improve a person’s mood, physical health, and overall quality of life.
Stress is a normal part of life that affects everyone. Knowing how to manage it can help you reduce your risk for serious health problems like obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Fortunately, many behaviors that reduce stress can also benefit your life in many other ways.
Our medical teams at Lompoc Valley Medical Cancer can work with you to reduce stress and any related health problems. In the meantime, here are eight easy ways to reduce stress that can improve your health and overall livelihood.
1. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is one of the best activities you can do for your overall health. It offers a countless number of benefits.
Exercise can strengthen your bones and muscles. It can increase your energy and boost your immunity, so you get sick less often. It helps you lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight. It also balances your hormones and improves your mood to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Exercise can regulate many bodily processes to reduce your risk of chronic health conditions. For instance, it can reduce high blood pressure to help you avoid heart disease and diabetes. It can improve digestion to reduce constipation and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It can even reduce inflammation to reduce your risk of cancer.
Start exercising now to benefit from its many positive effects. Stick to doing activities you love, which will make it easier for you to maintain a long-term fitness routine. Go for bike rides, take walks in the park, or join a recreational sports team in your local community.
2. Eat Nutritious Foods
The foods you eat play a vital role in your mood and anxiety level. Certain foods can upset your hormone levels—including cortisol, a stress hormone. Sugary foods are one of the main culprits of stress and low energy.
Other foods that can raise your stress levels include artificial sweeteners, processed carbs, fried foods, fast foods, and alcohol. High amounts of caffeine can also lead to stress.
Eat more healthy foods that reduce stress and make you feel better about yourself. Fish, avocados, and walnuts are loaded with healthy fats that can improve brain function and reduce your risk of heart disease. Berries, pecans, and dark chocolates are high in antioxidants that reduce inflammation and the risk of cancer.
Fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds are some of many highly nutritious foods that can help normalize your blood sugar and reduce stress. Consult with a nutritionist if you need help changing your diet and developing a healthy meal plan. A nutritionist can help you choose the best foods to reduce stress and symptoms of other health problems you may have.
3. Improve Your Sleep Quality
Getting too little sleep or poor-quality sleep can lead to physical stress. Physical stress can cause your body to produce higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. Higher cortisol can lead to mood swings and irritability. It can also increase your risk for cancer and a wide range of other health problems.
Make changes to your bedroom or sleep environment that promote a better night’s sleep. Buy a mattress or sheets that are more comfortable. Use a white noise machine that can lull you to sleep more quickly. Install a fan or air conditioner unit in your bedroom if you tend to wake up feeling hot and sweaty.
Sleeping better at night will improve your mood and increase your energy level. It can also help you be more productive at work or school, or home. Getting a good night’s sleep can make you feel more positive about your life and motivate you to fulfill your long-held goals.
4. Spend Less Time On Your Device
In recent years, devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers have led to fewer in-person interactions and outdoor experiences. Many people spend more time on their devices than they do with their real-life friends and family. Some people have even replaced their favorite hobbies and interests with screen time.
Excessive smartphone use is linked to higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Results from a 2018 study published in BMC Psychiatry found that smartphone addiction was linked to excessively high depression rates. Smartphone addiction was especially problematic in young adults and people with a high-school-level education. Too much screen time can also lead to poor sleep and sleep disorders like insomnia.
Limit your screen time to only certain times of the day. Start spending less time on your devices and more time connecting with nature, friends, and relatives. In-person social connections can naturally boost your happiness and self-esteem in addition to your physical health.
5. Read a Book
Reading can help you relax. It can normalize your breathing and heart rate when you’re feeling stressed. It can also reduce muscle tension. It can stimulate and exercise your brain and engage your mind and imagination.
In addition to reducing stress, reading can help you learn new things and gain new perspectives. Devote more time to reading books, and stick to reading only about topics or genres that interest you.
Don’t feel pressured to read classic literature or other books you may find overwhelming. The goal is to experience a sense of calm, relaxation, and happiness when you’re reading.
If possible, look for in-person book clubs in your local area. Attending a monthly or weekly book club can expose you to like-minded people who share your same love for certain types of books or genres.
6. Laugh Often
You may have heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” There is truth to this popular saying, as laughter can increase your circulation and relax your muscles. It can also increase oxygen flow and cause your body to release more endorphins. Endorphins are “feel-good” hormones that can make you feel happy and also reduce physical pain.
Laughing can often reduce stress, especially if you’re able to find humor in bad situations. When you’re feeling stressed, expose yourself to people, animals, or things that make you laugh so you can start feeling better.
Listen to clips of your favorite stand-up comedian. Spend a few minutes talking to a friend or co-worker who makes you laugh. You could also spend your evenings watching comedy movies that lift your mood and help you relax.
7. Consume Less Caffeine
Caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea can overstimulate your nervous system. The effects of too much caffeine can make you feel more anxious and stressed. Too much caffeine can also make it difficult for you to sleep, which also causes stress.
Start consuming less caffeine during the day. Avoid drinking caffeine within seven hours of going to bed so it won’t interfere with your sleep. Limit your caffeine intake to one or two cups a day early in the morning.
If you tend to drink lots of coffee or tea because you like hot beverages, consider switching to non-caffeinated herbal teas. Many herbal teas offer various health and mood benefits and can even reduce stress.
Lemon balm, chamomile, and lavender teas are some of the many teas that can reduce stress. If your goal is to improve another area of your health, there’s likely a tea that can produce that particular benefit. For example, red raspberry leaf tea may improve uterus health in females and prostate health in males. Ginger tea can reduce heartburn and improve digestion.
Ask your healthcare provider to recommend herbal teas that can specifically boost your mood or improve other health conditions.
8. Spend Time Outdoors
Being outside exposes you to sunlight and fresh air that can boost and strengthen your immune system. Results from several studies show that spending time outdoors can naturally reduce stress—especially if you’re surrounded by greenery.
According to a 2018 study published in Behavioral Sciences, the outdoor environments most helpful at reducing stress are parks, gardens, and waterfront places. The study showed that spending time in these environments can lead to more exercise, enhance social connections, and boost quality of life.
Make time every day to step outside, even if only for a few minutes. If you live in an urban area, make time to visit a nearby park or garden that offers plenty of greenery. If possible, do your exercise routine outdoors for extra mood and health benefits. Run on a trail instead of on the treadmill, or do body-weight exercises in the grass instead of on machines at the gym.
Reducing Stress and Anxiety With Lompoc Valley Medical Center
Lompoc Valley Medical Center is home to a large team of medical professionals who can work with you to reduce stress and anxiety. Our dietitians and nutritionists can also work with you to help you lose excess weight and develop healthy meal plans. We’ll be more than happy to help you improve your quality of life, especially if a chronic health condition is contributing to your stress.
Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to learn more about our many healthcare services.