For most of us, stress, anxiety, and workplace pressures are impossible to avoid. Limited time, money, or resources for getting things done, these things simply happen and sometimes the best we can do is to minimise the impact. Many stress-reduction techniques focus on the mental side of coping with pressure. Approaches such as positive psychology and mindfulness are indeed proven effective, but have you also thought about focusing on your body as a way to reduce stress?
You may already know how stress makes your body weaker, but the good news is that the reverse is also true. Here are 4 simple, life-changing tips to strengthen your mind by strengthening your body.
Tip 1: Develop Good Eating Habits
Eating low-fat, high-fibre, and carbohydrate-rich meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables will give you the nutrients you need to boost your immune system and give you energy. For example, magnesium is known to help regulate blood pressure as well as muscle and nerve functions. Calcium helps with nerve impulses. The fatty acids found in fish are good for the heart and many vegetables are good for boosting memory. On the other hand, tea and coffee contain stimulants such as caffeine, which can actually increase stress.
Tip 2: Drink Lots of Water
The link between water and stress reduction is well documented. All of our organs, including our brains, need water to function properly. Studies show that being just half a litre dehydrated can lead to an increase in cortisol, which is a stress hormone. If you are already dealing with pressure, you don't want to make it worse by adding the additional stress of dehydration to the brain. In addition, a glass of water can help reduce cravings for snacks, caffeine, or a smoke.
Tip 3: Perform Physical Activity
In addition to the obvious physical benefits, there are mental benefits from exercise as well. It helps to boost the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters: endorphins. It may also act as meditation in motion as you forget the day’s irritations and concentrate on your body’s movement. Stress reduction can be immediate, and over the long term, regular exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates mood, and improves self-esteem. You do not need to be an athlete either. Simply taking a break to walk up some stairs can lead to real results.
Tip 4: Get Enough Sleep
At night, stress can be a major problem as our minds race with all the things we need to do. This begins a dangerous cycle because a lack of sleep reduces workplace performance and a tired body releases more stress hormones. Tips 1-3 can help fight stress-related insomnia and improve sleep quality. A few other ideas include aromatherapy to relax the body, meditation or prayer to quiet the mind, and breathing exercises to activate the body’s natural sleep processes. Most importantly, plan ahead and give yourself permission to put work aside and just go to bed.
Sometimes stress is inevitable and the physical impacts are so familiar we don’t need to list them here. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with stress, but by taking control and strengthening your body, you are taking the healthy path to strengthen your mind against the harmful effects of stress.