Several years ago, I took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend 6 weeks at a Caribbean island retreat. It was fun and relaxing, and it was the first time in my life I fully realized how daily stress ages people.
Before that trip, I knew about all of the harmful physical effects of a high-stress lifestyle: weight gain, high blood pressure, and even a weakened immune system, but I didn’t pay too much attention because I didn’t experience any of those side effects of too much stress. More than a month of a stress-free lifestyle, however, made me sit up and pay attention: I (and my family and friends) saw a good 10 years disappear from my face.
That’s when I started taking steps to reduce daily stress in my life. Apparently, I hadn’t experienced enough stress to affect my weight or blood pressure, but I had been stressed enough to add years to my face!
Of course, few people can relax all of the time, but there are ways you can alleviate everyday stresses, no matter how busy you are. The easiest way is to first identify exactly what causes you stress. For me, that was a chaotic morning routine trying to get the kids out the door in time for the school bus and get myself presentable and get to work on time. Most mornings were awful and I would arrive at my office very anxious and distracted.
I made new house rules: everyone had to make the next day’s preparations the night before. Clothes had to be ready, permission slips signed, lunches made, or else! I started setting my alarm 20 minutes earlier so that I would have some downtime before everyone else woke up. Within days, I was far calmer—and happier.
To identify the routines or events in your life that cause you the most stress and find ways to change them to restore peace and calm. There are other lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce stress—and all of them have health benefits:
- Listen to your favorite music as often as you can. Studies show that this triggers a surge in your endorphins—and the result is a lessening of anxiety. This infusion of happiness actually causes your blood vessels to widen by more than 25%. Now that’s not so hard to do, is it?
- Get more than 6 hours of sleep every night. Less than that will cause your body to increase its levels of stress hormones. If you just can’t squeeze in more than 6 hours, try to compensate by relaxing your body during the day. Ideally, sit quietly and do deep breathing for 10 minutes. If that’s not possible, try to take several very short breaks and sit quietly.
- Exercise every day. We’ve all heard that—but did you know that even short bursts of exercise will help reduce stress? Try dancing for ten minutes, or park your car as far from a store’s entrance as possible and walk at a fast pace to the entrance.
As you can see, all of these de-stressors are easy to fit into any lifestyle, they aren’t arduous and they have multiple benefits.