If you speak to a doctor about reducing stress in your life, he will likely tell you to revamp your diet, lose weight, get more sleep, exercise more, and/or give up alcohol. While yes, all of these things will dramatically increase your ability to reduce stress, the mere thought of pursuing any one—much less all—of these goals is stressful.
How will you begin? How will you keep going?
There is a simpler way. You can choose just one moderate lifestyle change. That’s all it takes to get you on the road to feeling better. Once you master one easy change and it becomes second nature, you can use the energy and increased vitality you’ve created from that first step and put it toward making another tweak. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s a doable fix. And that’s the very best kind of change, sustainable change.
If you want to start getting a grip on your stress levels, commit to just one of the following list of 8 healthy behaviors. Sticking to even one of them can help you feel better instantly.
Which of these stress relief tips should you choose? Whichever feels the easiest, whichever you feel will offer you the greatest benefit, or whichever is calling you. There is no one right answer.
Here are the tips:
1. Get a full night of sleep on most nights.
Ideally you’d be in bed by 10 and sleep for 8 hours every night—sleep regulates your hormone levels (stress hormones included), refreshes your mind and promotes clearer thinking, and gives the body a chance to repair and restore itself. But some days there just aren’t 8 hours to spare. Make it your goal to prioritize sleep on most nights, giving yourself some wiggle room to stay up late once in awhile. As much as possible, try to get into a routine of going to sleep and awakening at the same time each night and morning and notice how your energy and clarity rise.
2. Get exercise 4 days a week.
Few women can hit the gym every day. Instead, aim to workout more days per week than you skip it. If formal exercise isn’t for you, opt for doing something active (walking to work, playing tag with the kids) 5 or 6 days a week. You’ll sleep better, your digestion will hum, stress levels drop and so do your weight.
3. Eat a home-cooked meal every day.
Food nourishes the soul as much as the stomach. When you eat out, you are not only more likely to eat less healthfully and consume more calories, you’re also losing the benefit of having someone who loves you (this includes you) prepare your food for you. Eating more home-cooked food will keep you grounded and healthy.
4. Schedule some quiet time (without your mobile).
The busier you are, the more you need time to do nothing. Silence gives you time to digest the day’s events and to hear your true thoughts and feelings. Vegging in front of the TV doesn’t count. Neither does checking your email on your phone. Dedicate 10 minutes a day to just be.
Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue and brain fog. Thirst can also be misinterpreted as hunger and trigger stress cravings —which in turn causes a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash. Start each morning with a big glass of lemon water and stay on top of your game by always having a glass of water at the ready.
6. Play with your friends and family regularly.
Play boosts creativity, fun and levity—all great antidotes to stress. Doing it with people you love boosts your connection and support system. Study after study has found that people with strong social networks are happier and healthier for longer than people without. So find a way to invest in your relationships—it will pay you back in myriad ways.
7. Cut back on caffeinated beverages.
Caffeine may make you feel mentally sharp, but it eats away at your well-being in important ways. First, even moderate caffeine intake can make it harder to sleep at night, and poor sleep is a major culprit in feeling fuzzy and blah. Caffeine is also dehydrating. Get mindful of how much caffeine you consume and choose your beverages with care. Avoid soda as much as possible and try half decaf if you really need that coffee fix. Better yet, do you really need another cup of coffee, or could you take a 5-minute walk around the office or outside and get the same result with less downside?
8. Find a manageable way to give back to your community.
You don’t need to single-handedly save the world. But the more connected you feel to the community around you, the more resilient you’ll be in the face of stress. Is there some simple way you can get involved in something outside the walls of your home and office? Finding a meaningful activity that you enjoy can sustain you when times get tough.
So take the first step to getting your vitality back and choose just one of these moderate lifestyle changes. It is all you need to start increasing your energy… and that energy will be the very next step in making even more healthy changes!
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