According to a Gallup poll from December 2017, eight in ten or 79% of Americans report they regularly experience stress. While sources of stress may vary, most of us feel the pressures of daily life. Stress itself cannot be measured, but the toll it takes shows up in multiple ways. For some of us it leads to physical problems such as stomach problems, headaches or aches and pains. For others the issues are behavioral showing up as lowered productivity, reduced creativity and compromised levels of cooperation. Our moods are also affected as we become less patient, flexible and resilient. Facing stressors in all elements of life, it makes sense that we would take any and all steps toward managing stress and its impact on our quality of life.
Simple and Free Strategies
Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many simple steps each of us can take to combat daily anxiety. Here are a few of my favorite and they don’t require much in terms of time or money.
1. Get enough sleep – a common complaint is feeling like ther is not enough time to get everything done. Despite this issue, staying up late in an effort to accomplish more often backfires. A less rested version of yourself often takes longer to complete tasks.
2. Stay hydrated – studies support the benefits of drinking lots of water and site the reduction of stress as a major benefit of this healthy habit. Increasing consumption of water promotes a stronger immune system, efficient digestion and healthy weight management.
3. Ask for help – Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Productive people know the value of collaborating with others and benefit from the support of others. In addition, spending time with others is considered as another strategy that lowers stress as feeling disconnected from others can be detrimental.
4. Schedule regular exercise – this is also a challenge for those of us strapped for time. However, regular exercise is known to reduce stress and improve work performance as well as quality of life.
5. Eat a healthy diet – while “fast food” can be a quick and easy way to grab a meal, the lack of nutrition from ready to eat or processed food provides little resources to our body and brain. Eating plenty of whole foods provides a higher quality of fuel necessary for higher levels of functioning.
6. Spend time outside – mothers have always promoted the benefits of fresh air. Turns out they were right and time in the great outdoors provides a myriad of benefits that reduce stress. The great outdoors promises the possibility of reducing blood pressure and rates of depression as well as improving memory and much more!
7. Learn about mindfulness and meditation – there is a mountain of evidence that proclaims the impressive benefits of practicing some form of mindfulness and/or meditation. The mindfulness revolution within the US is worth some research. Of all the simple and free strategies to lower stress, developing a mindfulness or meditation practice has the greatest potential to radically reduce your level of stress.
Many organizations within the US are committed to collecting data about the rates of stress amongst Americans. For years, surveys have documented the prevalence and problems of anxiety while most of us continue to struggle with multiple sources of stress. Simple strategies are easily forgotten or discounted while research would argue we are missing out on big returns for small investments. If we can remember to incorporate some of these steps into our daily routine we have a shot at avoiding the physical, behavioral and emotional consequences of stress.