Stress is an integral part of everyday life. It can’t be avoided, but it can be managed or directed. Whether your stress comes from plain exhaustion or unrealized fight or flight instincts, it can be alleviated with a few simple measures.
Get Some Sleep
The only way for the body to recover from a day of physical, mental, and emotional stress is through sleep. The human body shifts between two phases: the catabolic and anabolic phases. The catabolic phase is when your body uses energy, and the anabolic phase is when your body replenishes it. Sleep is the only time your body switches into its anabolic phase. Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep can leave you feeling as tired in the morning as when you went to bed at night, as your body fails to switch to its anabolic phase.
One condition that prevents the switch is sleep apnea. Waking up multiple times at night can cause the body to remain in its catabolic phase, leaving affected individuals even more tired in the morning. Bed bugs can also cause restless nights, as their constant bites can prevent deep sleep.
Even without sleep apnea and bed bugs, caffeine and bright lights can prevent you from getting good sleep. Caffeine can last up to 12 hours in your system, and bright lights at night can screw up your biological clock. Sleep better by avoiding coffee after 5 pm and limiting the use of phones and laptops a couple of hours before bedtime.
Catch a Few Rays
Sunlight makes you feel better. Basking in the sun promotes the production of serotonin in your body. Serotonin is a hormone that lightens your mood and recalibrates your biological clock. It’s the reason depression spikes during cold winter nights, sparking the term “winter blues.” Just 15 minutes under the sun is enough to brighten your mood and give you a daily dose of vitamin D.
As a bonus, vitamin D strengthens your immune system and allows your body to fully use calcium to fortify your bones. Wake up early and take short walks around the block. You can also take your morning coffee on the porch or do some reading in the sunlight.
Reach Out to Friends and Family
Humans are social creatures. Maintaining and strengthening connections with family and friends affects the body at neurochemical levels. Physical contact or even proximity to someone you cherish and love releases oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin, or the love hormone, produces feelings of warmth, safety, belonging, and joy. It’s the feeling you get when you first have a crush on someone or reunite with a beloved family member after a long time.
Physical contact through hugs, holding hands, or other forms of intimacy can ward off feelings of isolation, melancholy, and paranoia. Make time for family visits, night outs with friends, or intimate dates with your spouse.
Your fight or flight instincts can get skewed by modern society. You can’t just run away from your boss or lash out with a punch to the gut. Suppressing your subconscious instincts induces stress, and it can accumulate over time.
Physical activities like running or boxing give you a way to channel your fight or flight instinct, releasing them in a more productive and acceptable manner. Raise the intensity, and your body will produce endorphins that will give you the so-called runner’s high. Pick an activity and go with it. You’ll have a higher chance of sticking to an exercise program if you do it with a group, so consider sports activities or join a club.
Small achievements can trigger the reward centers in your brain. Even activities like finishing a level in a video game or defeating a boss will release dopamine into your systems. Whip out your smartphone and play a quick game when you’re feeling bored or stressed out. Of course, you can also trigger dopamine by finishing tasks if you want to use your time more productively.
Don’t Bother with the Small Stuff
If your mind thinks a task is pointless or unrewarding, you won’t get the usual dopamine rewards for finishing them, and you might even stress out a bit more. If a task is inconsequential and you hate doing it, don’t. Time is money, so use your money to spend more time doing things you love or relax.
Use same-day laundry services to deal with the pile of clothes, take your car to a car wash, or hire a cleaner to tidy up things around the house. Choose your battles, and don’t hesitate to delegate if it can reduce the stress in your life.
Don’t let stress bring you down. It might be unavoidable, but you can learn how to manage it, channel it in a positive direction, or avoid it altogether.