World over, the level of stress is rising. Today we can find people across age groups, genders, income levels, and geographies under severe stress or experience depression and anxiety. In fact, the American Institute of Stress conducted a study and revealed some alarming facts:
- Work-related stress infects 83% of the US workers
- Workplace stress results in an annual loss of up to $300 billion to UB businesses.
- Every day, about 1 million workers miss their work.
- When it comes to work-life balance, only 43% of Americans think that their employers are sensitive.
- Depression costs over $51 billion in the form of absenteeism and its treatment over $26 billion annually.
- Over 120,000 lives are lost due to work-related stress every year. This adds $190 billion to healthcare costs.
This reveals the enormity of the problem world over. Rising stress levels not only add to the costs, but they also lead to loss of lives. And the number is rising fast.
While there is little that can be done n certain things like rising competition, annoying deadlines, tough timelines, etc, we can definitely manage better certain things that are in our direct control. This includes managing our lives better, improving our own efficiency and learning, or adopting stress management techniques.
Let us have a look at the top 6 most effective and popular stress management techniques that are practiced by people across the world.
- Regular exercise
- Healthy diet
- Pursuing a hobby
- Get Quality Sleep
- Using supplements
They say that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. While stress leads to the release of Cortisol, exercise releases endorphins. Studies conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggest that regular exercise releases endorphins, the natural pain-killers. Additionally, regular exercise also promotes our ability to sleep which relaxes our body helping it to return to normalcy faster. No wonder, Cortisol is called the stress hormone while endorphin is called the happiness hormone. The American Heart Association recommends that an average individual should exercise about 2.5 hours per week to reduce stress and lead a healthy normal life. Exercise needs not be only done in a gym but could be in other forms like swimming, hiking, biking, etc.
Meditation is considered to be one of the most effective means of managing stress. Even a few minutes of meditation can help calm the mind thus reducing stress levels. According to Mayo Clinic, any of the following could be followed to practice meditation:
- Guided meditation: Use of imagery, senses (smell, sights, etc) to calm the mind. At times even a teacher or guide could help you meditate.
- Mantra meditation: Repeated chanting of a set of words or mantras can help calm the mind thus preventing depressing or anxiety-provoking thoughts.
- Mindfulness meditation: Here you can focus on things like breathing, heartbeat, etc. even the thoughts and emotions that come to mind could be observed without getting disturbed by them.
- Qi gong: This involves combining techniques like meditation, relaxation, physical movement, and breathing to achieve peace and restoring mental balance.
- Yoga: Yoga is a combination of physical exercise, body postures, and controlled breathing. Yoga promotes well being of mind as well as body.
While some foods act as comfort foods that promoting Serotonin (a brain calming hormone), others help in controlling the level of Cortisol and Adrenalin (the stress-causing hormones). According to WebMD, a healthy diet helps in strengthening the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Healthy dies should consist of the following:
- Complex Carbohydrates foods like whole-grain bread and cereals,
- Simple Carbohydrates like sweets and Soda, but in limited quantities.
- Vitamin C rich foods like oranges and lemons etc.
- Green leafy vegetables like Spinach
- Fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids like Tuna, Salmon
- Nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts
- Fruits like avocado, apples, bananas, and other seasonal fruits.
- Raw vegetables like carrots, celery, tomatoes
- Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products
Pursuing a hobby
According to the Australian Dept. of Health, pursuing a hobby helps better stress management. Apparently, a hobby helps un unwind and get out of our daily routine. It also helps in reducing the stress-causing thoughts from becoming too strong. More than that, it helps our brain or remaining calm and focus well on things in hand. Their studies revealed that people with hobbies are less likely to feel the ill effects of stress, suffer from dampened moods and experience depression. In fact, hobbies lift up your mood, make you feel happy & relaxed thereby giving you a clearer picture of the problem in hand and find an effective solution to deal with it. Irrespective of the type of hobby, we can manage our stress levels better if the hobby is meaningful and enjoyable to us.
Get Quality Sleep:
The Sleep Foundation finds that stress levels can be managed better through quality sleep. Rising stress levels lead to a hyper-arousal status thus causing insomnia. Insomnia then leads to an increase in stress and the cycle continues. Hence to break the cycle, quality of sleep is very important. Sleep quality can be achieved through:
- Downshift before bedtime: As a habit, avoid indulging in anything stressful or stimulating like a mobile phone at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine drinks should be avoided after sundown to prevent the brain from being in an active state at sleep hours.
- Stick to sleep times: As much as possible, stick to a set time for sleeping and waking up. This causes the body to follow a particular rhythm.
- Find a comfortable place to sleep: Not only should the bed be comfortable, but the rooms should also not have bright light or loud noises which may distract you and keep you awake.
According to a report published in Express.co.uk, a variety of supplements can prove beneficial in managing stress. These include multi-vitamins and minerals which are available in various forms like powders, capsules or syrups.
According to a report published in the Observer, CBD oil is emerging to be the newest form of supplement beneficial in stress management. While CBD oil is one area that demands a lot of medical and scientific research, nevertheless, its acceptance as a stress buster is growing very rapidly.
While these techniques are quite popular and effective with millions of followers world over, some need the help of a medical practitioner to initiate and while being practiced. Always remember that while managing stress, things that are external to us are difficult to control. What is in our control is our response to the stimulus. If we are able to manage ourselves better, the stress level automatically remains under control. This not only helps us to remain composed but also helps in efficiently managing the source of stress better.