Stress seems to be becoming the new normal for Canadians. According to a recent report released by Statistics Canada, one in four Canadians cite stress as the main reason for leaving their job, with 73% of all working adults reporting some level of daily stress. Moreover, the results of the report identified work as the biggest source of stress for most Canadians, followed by financial and family reasons. And, of course, the recent global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has not been helping in keeping our stress levels down.
While a bit of stress can even be beneficial for some, motivating us to take necessary actions and become more productive, chronic long-term stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and result in negative health consequences. These include mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, sleep problems, and reduced immune function. The good news is that there are many effective ways to manage your stress levels and live a healthier, happier life. Here are some effective tips to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Reduce your caffeine intake
Many people drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks to feel more awake and boost their productivity. However, caffeine can act as a powerful stimulant and cause feelings of anxiety, jitters, and even result in sleep problems. Moreover, coffee can raise your blood pressure, and increase the workload for your cardiovascular system. Although each person’s caffeine tolerance is different, it is generally recommended not to exceed two cups of coffee a day. Effective strategies to cut back on your coffee intake include sipping your coffee slower and finding caffeine-free substitutes for your favourite drinks.
- Try new time management techniques
Often, we tend to get stressed because we fall behind on work or can’t manage to juggle several tasks at the same time. Fortunately, there are many powerful time management techniques that can help you stay on track with work and project deadlines and other activities. Setting your goals and priorities at the beginning of each workday can help you stay focused and accomplish more. In addition, according to new research findings, most people tend to be more productive when working in shorter, intense bursts. For instance, working in intervals of about 30 minutes and taking brief breaks in between can help to maximize your attention span. Finally, it is also important to keep in mind that working longer hours does not mean being more productive. If there is a time during the day when you are more alert, you can use it to schedule the work which requires most concentration and effort from you.
- Identify your stressors
Keeping a stress journal can help you identify the recurring stressors in your life and will help you deal with them. At the end of each day, you can make a few brief notes about the events of thoughts that had stressed you out earlier. When evaluating your stressors throughout the day, look for physical signs of stress, such as tense muscles, headaches or migraines. As you track your daily sources of stress, you will notice emerging patterns and common themes. This will help you come up with effective coping strategies for your main stressors. For example, if you find that work deadlines are one of your main sources of stress, you can come up with ways to minimize procrastination and optimize your workflow accordingly.
- Get active
When you constantly feel stressed, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. However, scientific research shows that physical activity can help to significantly reduce both stress and anxiety. In addition, exercise can even improve your mood and boost your immune system function, as well as your overall health and wellbeing. Some ideas for adding physical activity to your daily routine include doing home workouts, going for brisk walks around your neighborhood, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking instead of driving whenever possible.
- Make time to connect with others
Connecting with your support network is another great way to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. Talking to your friends and family about what stresses you out and hearing their perspective while feeling safe and understood can be very calming. According to scientific research, reaching out to your support network can help you manage your stress levels and boost your sense of belonging and even self-confidence. In addition, creating a support network can even prevent depression and protect your mental health.
- Explore different relaxation techniques
Using relaxation techniques can be a great way to manage your daily stress and anxiety levels. For example, imagery visualization is one of the most common and effective relaxation techniques and can be used to achieve feelings of peace and calmness. This method is based on visualizing or imagining peaceful scenes, such as beautiful natural landscapes while practicing deep breathing. In addition, practicing mindfulness meditation is another effective way to overcome stress. Recent medical research has shown that meditation can significantly diminish the negative physical effects of stress on the body. Importantly, even brief mindfulness meditation sessions can help you reduce feelings of stress.
- Make time for fun activities
Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the fast pace of our daily lives that we forget to take time to do the things we enjoy. To manage your stress and anxiety levels, it is important to make time for fun activities, such as your hobbies and interests. Participating in your favourite activities and hobbies promote the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which are the “feel-good” chemical messengers. In addition, research studies also show that leisure activities can be a great tool to proactively cope with stressors.