By identifying the problems and situations that create stress and learning to manage them by practicing general techniques of stress protection, you can begin to reduce stress, and lessen its impact on health. Try the following suggestions:
- Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of psychotherapy can help you to recognize thinking patterns that lead to worry, and teach ways to address them with healthy coping skills.
- Get a companion animal. Caring for a cat or dog that you love may benefit the activity of parasympathetic nervous system, which mediates stress-sensitive organs such as the heart, stomach and intestines.
- Avoid stimulants. Caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants can exacerbate tension, nervousness and worry.
- Get regular physical activity. A combination of aerobic exercises, strength training, and post workout stretching can lower stress hormones and increase mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins.
- Explore acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine can help address anxiety and chronic worry with interventions based on the flow of energy through the body.
- Build a strong support system. People who are able to cope well with stress often have strong social support networks with family, friends and even companion animals.
- Have limits. If asked to take on too much work or responsibility, say no, and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Laugh it off. Laughter is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress.
- Take a media break or news fast. Research has shown that the emotional content of the news can negatively affect mood and aggravate sadness and depression. Avoid all media as much as possible for a week, or even just a few days, and see how you feel.
- Check medications. Ask you doctor or pharmacist to discuss side effects of your meds. Many can aggravate anxiety or depression.
- Make sure you set aside down-time or relaxation time every day.
- Identify your stressors. Simply making a list of things that cause stress in your life can help you identify and avoid common stressors.
- Learn to think of stressful situations as temporary challenges, and overcome the tendency to be pessimistic. Learn and cultivate optimism.
- Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish such as salmon, black cod, or sardines, A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with increased anxiety and depression.
- Avoid alcohol as a means to cope with stress. It is potentially addictive and not a healthy way to neutralize stress.
- Multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can help to counteract the negative effects of unhealthy stress on the body.
- B-complex. B vitamins can help balance mood, calm the nervous system and alleviate stress, and increase the efficacy of prescription anti-depressants.
- Omega-3 (fish oil) supplement. Either from molecularly distilled fish oil or from krill. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with increased anxiety and depression.
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). An extract from the root of this flowering perennial contains essential oils that have been shown to help some people more effectively deal with stress.
- Calcium and magnesium. Both are essential for relaxation and may help support healthy sleep, and magnesium can help relax muscles.
- St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). Extract of this flowering herb, indigenous to Europe, may help boost mood and maintain a healthy emotional outlook.