Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Stress can give you a rush of energy when it’s needed most—for instance, competing in sports, working on an important project, or facing a dangerous situation. The hormones and other chemicals released when under stress prepare you for action. You breathe faster, your heartbeat quickens, blood sugar rises to give you energy, and your brain uses more oxygen as it shifts into high alert.
But if stress lasts a long time—a condition known as chronic stress—those “high-alert” changes become harmful rather than helpful. In the long run, reducing stress may help you to slow down and enjoy your time with the people and activities you really care about. Below are a few suggestions on how to help reduce your stress.
To Reduce Stress
- Get enough sleep. To improve your sleep habits, go to bed the same time each night and get up the same time each morning, and limit the use of light-emitting electronics like computers and smartphones before bed. The light can reduce production of a natural sleep hormone called melatonin, which then makes it hard to fall asleep.
- Exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes a day of walking can boost mood and reduce stress.
- Build a social support network. Having close personal relationships—people with whom you can talk, with whom you can share your feelings—can be helpful. Spending time with family and friends in order to maintain those relationships is perhaps one of the most crucial things you can do as a stress reducer.
- Set priorities. Decide what must get done and what can wait. Say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
- Think positive. Note what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day, not what you’ve failed to do.
- Try relaxation methods. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or tai chi may help. In studies, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress, alter brain structure and function, and have a positive effect on the immune system.
- Seek help. Talk to a mental health professional if you feel unable to cope, have suicidal thoughts, or use drugs or alcohol to cope.