We all have crappy days. One of the fascinating things about us humans is the inconsistency in our moods and feelings. As hard as we may try, it's nearly impossible to have a steady mood throughout the day. Our obsessive thoughts can take a perfectly fine day and wreck it. Unless you've cultivated the ability to stay in the moment and be mindful, you probably struggle too.
I've given up on trying to control my thoughts. It doesn't work. Embracing the fact that thoughts will come and thoughts will go, will likely give you a sense of relief. After all, it's not your fault - we're just wired this way, some more so than others.
All of us deal with a certain amount of daily stress, at least the majority do. Traffic, financial burdens, raising children, work, relationships - all these things that make up this beautiful thing called life but also add a good amount of tension and stress.
Of course daily stress is circumstantial. We can't lump everyone's experiences into the same category because surprise, we're all unique. But for the most part a lot of us experience stress in similar ways. We can all agree that traffic jams, work pressure and our ever increasing daily responsibilities suck. But I think there are little things we can intentionally do in order to bring a dose of calm in our day and reduce daily stress.
Negative effects of chronic daily stress
We live in a fast paced world with mounting expectations. Unfortunately our country doesn't value leisure, rest and pleasurable activities as much as we do hard work. That ultimately seems to be how we value a person's worth, which in my opinion is tragic. Hard work as its place but it seems to me that If you don't work hard, are stressed and exhausted, you're not doing enough. But living like this does take its toll. Chronic daily stress impacts every system in our body, damaging us on a cellular level. The effects are not always apparent as we've come to believe this is normal.
Here are some of the negative side effects of daily stress that we may not even be aware of:
- mood swings
- racing thoughts
- inability to concentrate
- low sex drive
- ringing in the ear
- sweaty extremities
- rapid heart beat
- upset stomach
- chest pain/tightness
- tight muscles
- increased or decreased appetite
- clenching jaw
- dry mouth
These are just some of the symptoms that can be experienced to varying degrees but overall, I think most of us can relate to at least some of them. The good thing is, we can do something about it. Here are a few strategies you can implement today that are simple to do and require minimal effort. After all, you should't be stressed out about not feeling stressed out.
How to reduce daily stress
1. Drink enough water - something so simple that makes such a significant difference. Drinking enough water during the day can positively impact numerous us including better focus, improved performance, stable mood, proper digestion as well as mitigating migraine headaches. This resource will help you determine how much water you should be drinking during the day.
2. Take apple cide vinegar - I never understood what the hoopla was with apple cider vinegar until I started regularly taking it. It provides an energy boost and makes me feel energized. Interestingly stress just like exercise causes build up of lactic acid in the muscles leading fatigue. The amino acids and enzymes contained in ACV help combat that feeling.
My daily drink is 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar in 4 oz warm water. And my favorite apple cider vinegar is this.
3. Go for a walk - When things get crazy, get up and just go for a walk. Drop everything. This has proven to be a huge piece for me. We become utterly consumed in tasks that can be overwhelming - particularly when it comes to work and the demands others put on us. When you find yourself in that situation, as untimely as it may seem, just go for a walk for 10-15 minutes. Your perspective will change.
4. Meditate - I've previously written about the importance of meditation. It's a way of unplugging from the every day stress and turning inward. Science has gotten behind this ancient practice with evidence based studies. Many find it intimidating but really all you need is a quiet place and a chair, cushion or just the floor. While there are several types of meditation, if you just want to reap the benefits without attachment to a particular style, I recommend using a guided meditation app or YouTube videos.
5. Eat well throughout the day - Due to not eating or eating the wrong foods, our blood sugar can go a little crazy during the day, which can lead to us feeling stressed out and irritable. So if you're eating a donut for breakfast, chances are you're likely going to be pretty miserable soon after. Blood sugar imbalances lead to unstable mood, concentration issues and fatigue. But eating a nutrient dense diet with plenty of good fat and taking it easy on the sugar, will help to keep you feeling sharp and better able to handle daily stress.
7. Have a bottle of kombucha - Kombucha is not for everyone, I get that. But in my opinion there are few foods that can match the benefits of kombucha. It's energizing, stress relieving, delicious and loaded with probiotics. It's my favorite treat on most days.
8. Take a nap, if possible - Our minds and bodies can only handle so much stress. I don't know about you but when I'm pulled in 10 different directions, I feel exhausted to the core. All I want in that moment is just to close my eyes and slip into the wonderful realm where you don't have to think or worry. If you have the luxury of taking a nap (in your car, on your lunch break, or wherever), go for it, as it will significantly improve your ability to handle stress.
9. Drink green tea - The benefits of green tea are widely known as they've been thoroughly researched. Green tea contains the amino acid L-Thianine which promotes a state of calm. Consuming green tea thought the day can be beneficial way in lowering daily stress. If you don't like the taste of green tea, you can still reap the benefits by taking L-Theanine in capsule form. But avoid supplementation if you're currently taking SSRIs, are pregnant or nursing.
10. Do something for someone else - We generally don't need science to confirm, though it is validating of course, that doing something for another person, without expectation can boost happiness levels. An act as simple as holding a door or letting a car go in front of you in traffic can bring on positive emotions and diminish stress.
11. Read for a change in perspective - Stress is subjective. It only feels terrible because we're in it at the moment. Stepping outside of ourselves and getting lost in a book, can shift perspective, activate our pleasure centers and help diminish strong emotions. I find getting lost in a book to be nearly as restorative for change in perspective as a good night's rest.
12. Just breathe - This is almost too simple but very effective. When you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to focus, close your eyes and take 10-20 deep, slow breaths. That's it. You'll see a difference right away.
Stress is inevitable and in some cases can even be beneficial but having some tools at your disposal for being able to better cope with daily stress can significantly improve our every day life.