In 2022, you don’t need to be a fortune 500 CEO or Olympic athlete to feel overwhelmed by stress; 55 percent of Americans say they experience stress daily. This means stress has become so ingrained into our lives that it is now the norm and a feeling most of us believe is normal instead of something that needs to be identified and fixed. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it has to (or should) be accepted. Stress can take a serious toll on the body, and if we’re not careful and don’t take steps to monitor our stress levels, it can lead to some pretty scary health risks.
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I’ve had my ups and downs dealing with stress, and when I was 26, I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, a condition known to be influenced by stress levels. Until this point, I had unknowingly let stress control my life, and now it was controlling my body. I wasn’t willing to continue living with that, so I decided changes had to be made. Today, I can gladly say that stress no longer controls my life, thanks to a few simple daily habits I’ve incorporated. Spoiler alert: They’ve helped heal my body and lower my stress levels.
1. Move your body
There are a lot of reasons to move your body on a daily basis aside from just the physical benefits, and reducing stress is one of them. When we move our bodies, we release endorphins, help to regulate our emotions, provide oxygen to the brain, and show our bodies we value them. Moving your body doesn’t have to mean working out every day. It can mean going for a walk, doing some light stretching, or engaging in an activity you love, like paddle-boarding or dancing. Once you shift your mindset from “I have to work out today” to “I get to move my body today,” this habit can become something you look forward to instead of something you dread.
2. Regulate your emotions
If you’re anything like me, you didn’t grow up learning how to talk about your emotions and feelings. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I actually leaned into the power of expressing my emotions in a safe environment. We deal with a lot as human beings, like the ups and downs that come with relationships, work, and personal development. That’s a lot to keep inside, which is why it’s important to express what we are feeling, whether it be through therapy, journaling, or talking to friends or family. Regulating emotions allows you to let go of people and situations that no longer serve you and the stress that comes with them.
Meditation has had the biggest impact on my stress levels (and I was a skeptic at first). After researching and learning more about the different types of meditation, I found a daily routine that works for me: I switch between breathwork, guided meditations, sound baths, and silent meditations. Everyone is different, so finding a meditation method that works for you can take some time, but the most important takeaways I have learned are that there is no wrong way to meditate, and sticking with it is key. Whether you meditate for five minutes or 20, your body will thank you.
4. Limit caffeine intake
I have always been sensitive to caffeine. I’m that person who gets jittery and can’t fall asleep at night when I have a cup of coffee. Yet, I still give in to my craving from time to time. Caffeine affects everyone differently, and if you’re like me, you’ve had to change your relationship with it. These days I switch between coffee, green tea, and matcha, which provides a better balance for me. I sometimes add coconut water to my coffee to help with its dehydrating effect, but I never drink coffee on an empty stomach or after 3 p.m. Now, coffee in the right amount and scenarios don’t make me jittery or fluctuate my stress levels. It just brings me joy (as all coffee should).
5. Get enough sleep
You’ve probably heard celebrities like J.Lo and Jennifer Aniston say the secret to their healthy skin is lots of water and a good night’s sleep, and who are we to argue with them? According to the Sleep Foundation, adults aged 18-64 should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep affects every part of our bodies, from our brain and cognitive skills to our energy levels throughout the day. Personally, I am much more irritable on the days that I get under seven hours of sleep. If we are constantly not getting enough sleep, it puts a strain on our bodies, leading to higher stress levels.
6. Talk to your doctor about a B-12 supplement
Yes, stress and fatigue can also have to do with nutrient deficiencies. Supplements can be a great aid when you’re not getting enough natural vitamins from your diet. With that said, I always recommend talking to your doctor before taking any new supplements. As someone who sticks to a mostly vegetarian diet, which doesn’t often contain foods with a lot of B-12, it made sense that I was deficient in it and why I felt a significant reduction in my stress levels once I started taking it. Studies have shown that there is a link between vitamin B-12 deficiency and energy levels, so it’s no surprise that I had more energy after taking the supplement. The best part? My stress has become much more manageable.