Let me guess…
You clicked on this article because your guilty conscience is telling you that you stress too much.
And you’re worried that all this time, you’ve been causing damage to your body (without even realizing it!)
Well, it’s no secret anymore. Chances are, it’s true. Stress is a killer and at its very least, it will lower your immune system and make you more prone to serious illnesses.
But…there’s some great news!
You can do something about it. You can live a healthy, balanced and happy life and you can avoid the nasty effects of stress.
To help you do that, I’ll be sharing with you 13 highly effective ways to drastically lower the stress in your life as well as ways to restore your body of stress related damage.
But first, find out how stress is one of the leading causing of death.
Stress is designed to protect us…not kill us!
Stress is actually designed to protect us. Also known as the fight or flight reflex, stress is our body’s way of protecting us from danger or predators.
When in danger, hormones, adrenaline and the stress hormone ‘Cortisol’ flood your blood stream which gives you more energy, makes you more alert and helps you to better deal with the situation.
Imagine you are being chased by a scary bear whose only intention is to fill his hungry stomach. Well, it’s that same stress response that will hopefully push you to make it out of there alive!
By now, you are probably wondering how stress can also kill you.
The shocking truth about stress
Surprisingly, that same fight or flight reflex that we experience in times of danger is also triggered every time we experience stress in our day to day lives.
Perhaps for you, your stress response is being triggered by work, financial or family related stress.
Whatever it may be, the problem with these ongoing stressful situations is that our bodies literally become accustomed to functioning at a highly stressed level.
This causes irreversible damage to our cardiovascular network such as our heart and blood vessels.
This is how stress can kill you.
First of all, stress speeds up the aging process in your body, particularly your blood vessels. As we stress, our blood pressure hits the roof. High blood pressure damages cells in the artery walls making them thick and stiff.
This restricts blood flow and our heart is forced to work harder to pump blood throughout our body. The more we stress, the more we damage our blood vessels.
As a result, you can experience:
- A heart attack as blood struggles to get to the heart
- A stroke, as high blood pressure can cause blood vessels to burst
Did you know that stress increases the risk of heart disease by 40%, a heart attack by 25% and a stroke by 50%?
Pretty shocking isn’t it?
But wait, stress can also cause your brain to shrink! Extreme stress events reduce the amount of grey matter in our brain, mostly in the areas related to our emotions and psychological functions. Not only does this shrink your brain, it can also lead to psychiatric problems.
Stress can also cause;
- The immune system to shut down
- A reduce in white blood cells, and
- An increased susceptibility to disease
Believe it or not, but stress is the basic cause of 60% of all illness and disease. Three out of four people who visit the doctor are there because of stress related illnesses.
By now, I imagine that you are feeling determined to lower the amount of stress in your life.
Am I right?
And you’re probably thinking “wouldn’t it be great if the perfect guide to lowering stress could just be handed to me?”
Well, you’re in luck!
Below are 13 extremely effective ways to dramatically reduce stress in your life and to restore your body from stress related damage.
The only guide to tackling stress you’ll ever need
Step 1: Eliminate daily influences
1. Change your lifestyle
This is potentially the most important step in reducing your stress levels. The main reason that we are constantly stressed is because of our busy, competitive and overly productive lifestyles.
Think about the things that cause you stress and try to eliminate them.
Are you working too hard? Are you trying to multitask and be more productive? Multitasking is actually less effective than doing things more mindfully.
Other things you might try to eliminate are;
- Getting stuck in traffic (this is a big stressor)
- Being late for things
- Overwhelming yourself with too many tasks or goals
- Leaving things to the last minute
- Time constraints in the workplace
The power is in your court. Do you want to be extremely productive but feel stressed out on a daily basis, or rather do less, have more time for yourself and live a more relaxed and healthier life?
2. Consume less caffeine
Caffeine literally puts your body in a state of stress. As your body adsorbs caffeine, you get a big adrenaline boost, your heart pumps faster, your blood pressure rises and the level of ‘cortisol’ (the stress hormone) can also increase.
3. Eat less sugar and fatty foods
Sugar and fatty foods can increase blood clotting, blood pressure and can stimulate high levels of stress hormones in the blood stream.
4. Control your thoughts
Constant negative thoughts and worrying will higher your stress levels. We have approximately 50,000 thoughts per day. Just imagine, if only 10% of those thoughts were negative, that’s 5,000 negative thoughts a day!
5. Get enough sleep
Having too little sleep will cause you to feel naturally more stressed. Not only will your body have to work harder to complete its daily functions, you will be fatigued and less able to cope and deal with whatever gets thrown your way. And then you’ll probably want to drink more coffee too!!
Step 2: Take advantage of these natural stress relievers
Oxytocin, also known as the cuddle hormone is believed to help reduce the stress response. It relaxes your blood vessels and helps to restore your heart from stress related damage.
How can you produce oxytocin? Well, it is released during positive social interaction and while caring for others so all you need to do is spend more time with others.
Exercise is a great stress reliever. When exercising, your body produces endorphins which makes you feel happy and reduces anxiety.
8. Playing with children and pets
Studies show that people who play with children and pets are dramatically less stressed.
Did you know that laughing is actually a form of therapy?
That’s because laughing has such a powerful influence over how happy and relaxed we feel. Not only does laughing lighten our load mentally, it causes changes in the body to take place including the release of endorphins, causing us to feel more positive.
10. Meditation, yoga & breathing exercises
Simply put, stress is something that causes tension and strain. Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are all proven ways of releasing stress and tension mentally and physically.
Yoga, meditation and focusing on your breathing helps you to feel in touch with yourself, clear your mind and resist getting wrapped up in your thoughts and the drama in your life.
11. Fill your nutritional gap
Consume more essential fatty acids and vitamin B and C. Essential fatty acids help to produce the hormones that help your body deal with stress. Vitamin B helps to ease stress by supporting the stress response and vitamin C feeds the adrenal tissues in your body.
12. Take a two minute vacation
Close your eyes and take a two minute vacation in your head. Think about and imagine your favorite place for example. This will help you to take a step back from whatever stress you are experiencing and feel more rested.
13. Take a real vacation
Now days, people literally work their life away. Life becomes about work and money. To stress less, it’s important to live a balanced life. Taking vacations from your busy life is necessary to lower your stress levels.
However you choose to relieve stress in your life, the important thing is that you take action!
Stress really is a killer, and at its least, it will cause irreversible damage to your body.
You may have to do a little shuffling in your life to lower the amount of stress you experience, but it will be well worth it. Not only will you be healthier, you’ll be a lot happier too.
So I challenge you to take control from today onward. Don’t give into the temptations of a super productive lifestyle where your stress levels constantly hit the roof.
Rather, make the choice every day to put your health and happiness first by giving your body time to relax and restore itself.
Make the choice to live a healthy, balanced and stress free life.
Chantalle Blikman is a writer and co-founder of Want2discover. Visit her website for more great articles on self-improvement and how to live a fulfilling and happy life. Be sure to download a copy of her Free Ebook: 52 Simple Steps Towards Happiness and Success.