Stress as you may already know, is normal. Sometimes it gives us that boost to go the extra mile, close a crucial deal, or finish ahead of a looming deadline. Stress in small doses – like chocolate – is good for us. But, too much stress is lethal to the body. This “fight or flight” response can cause serious health-related problems. It can worsen or increase conditions like obesity, diabetes, depression, asthma, and heart disease. In the US, 43% of adults suffer negative health effects from stress.
Between 75% and 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related complaints or problems. It can be hard to “unplug” in today's digital world, and there's a lot more pressure thrown our way compared to 20 years ago.
Now more than ever, we need to find ways to deal with stress on a daily basis. Easier said than done, though, isn't it?
The trick is to find easy ways to incorporate stress-busters into your current lifestyle. Here are six things you can do to combat stress at the start of your day.
Eat like a king for breakfast
Breakfast, as the experts tell us, is the most important meal of the day. But, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn and lay out a lavish spread to eat like a king. The important thing is getting in a healthy meal first thing in the morning. It can help balance your blood sugar levels and give you the sustenance you need to handle stress. Make sure you get in plenty of protein and fruit. Enjoy pancakes with low-fat cream cheese and strawberries, for example. To save time, make a batch of pancakes over the weekend and freeze them.
Pump up the music and sing along
It doesn't matter how out of tune you are, singing aloud has a way of putting you in a better mood. Crank up those tunes and sing in the shower or in your car on the way to work. A study of choir members revealed how singing made them feel less stressed. Singing is great for your breathing, heart and immune system. Listening to music as you get ready for your day, creates positive energy, and a sense of fun. Or a soothing sense of peace.
Move your body
Hit the gym, go for a walk around the block, do a workout DVD, or dance around in your living room. Exercise is great for your body and mind because when you move, your body produces feel-good endorphins. This helps you focus and forget what's making you feel stressed or anxious. A raised heart rate releases these endorphins, and a hormone known as ANP, which induces euphoria and reduces pain. Exercise should be fun, so make sure to choose something that you enjoy doing, which makes you feel good.
Find your zen in five minutes
One of the many benefits of breathing deeply is counteracting stress and anxiety. Even if you simply sit and focus on your breathing for five minutes, you'll feel more at peace and calmer. Lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes if you live in a noisy or busy household, for example. You can even light a candle or play some soothing music in the background if you have a few extra minutes. Breathing increases oxygen to the heart and reduces muscle tension. Other benefits include an increase in concentration, creativity and self-love.
Eat dark chocolate
In times of stress it's normal to turn to comfort food, but junk food isn't the answer. Instead, nibble on a few pieces of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is good for you because it's packed with healthy chemicals, like theobromine. Scientists found that anxious people who ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, became less stressed. The results showed that the participants' stress hormone levels were significantly lowered. So instead of coffee, why not start your day with an indulgent mug of hot chocolate? Or pack a few pieces of dark chocolate into your bag to snack on during the day.
Laugh out loud
Laughing feels good and it's excellent for your health. That's because every time you crack up, you increase oxygen to your organs. This in turn, increases blood flow and can help boost your immune system. Laughing also reduces the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. Read a couple of online jokes, browse the web for funny clips, or watch a comedy to get in those feel-good giggles for the day.
So there you have it; six stress-buster ways to easily add feel-good stuff to your day, while having fun or keeping your cool at the same time!
Image source: Markus Tacker via Flickr