What’s your stress “tell?” For some, a quickened heart rate or a slight feeling of queasiness is enough to let them know they’re getting anxious or overwhelmed. But just as a slight from your boss or bad news from a family member can get your stress hormones pumping and your blood pressure rising quickly, you have the power to reset almost instantly.
When we’re stressed, hormones like cortisol flood our systems, producing the “fight or flight response” in which our heart rate goes up, we breathe more heavily (requiring more oxygen) and our blood vessels constrict. While in the pre-civilization world, the increased blood flow to our heart and muscles helped us escape from predators and dangerous situations, we find ourselves in a very different position now. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between an approaching grizzly bear and a ticked off spouse or a particularly epic traffic jam, so our stress response is triggered when there’s no imminent danger. Instead of helping us to escape, this can contribute to chronic conditions like hypertension and headaches, as well as mental health concerns like depression and anxiety disorders. What’s more, stress can make other conditions — like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia — worse.
Identity your stress triggers. First things first, what exactly stresses you out? Do you know exactly what triggers this reaction? How do you react to it? When you have a few answers, look for possible solutions. While you’re not going to be able to eliminate every stress trigger in your life, you can at least remove the ones that you have influence over.
Breathe deeply. Any yogi knows that the breath — known as pranayama or “life force” — plays an important role in nourishing the body. And medical researchers agree. “Breathing exercises can help you relax, because they make your body feel like it does when you are already relaxed
Take a 10-minute walk. Exercise is one of the best stress relievers out there. But not everyone will take the time or have the motivation to commit to a strict workout regimen. Could you squeeze in a 10-minute walk either first thing in the morning, during a lunch break, or when we get home from work? A short walk clears our heads and boost endorphins, which in turn reduces stress hormones.
Laugh. Since we all have different senses of humor, think about something that puts a smile on your face. Is it an old SNL sketch, viral video of a dog chasing its tail, or reminiscing about that time your best friends fell down the stairs? Whatever it is, keep it on hand so it’s easily accessible when you need a good laugh.