10 Things That Contribute to Lower Stress Levels

Have questions about managing stress? Join Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on Facebook Live Tuesday, April 18 at 3 p.m. when Dr. DiFranco will be available to answer your questions and share tips.

Among the top five national health conditions contributing to poor health, depression, anxiety and mood disorders, as a group, are ranked number one in almost every state in the U.S.

Oftentimes, these chronic conditions are made worse by stress. A key to managing everyday stress is setting realistic, manageable goals.

Here are 10 things that can help reduce stress easily:

  1. A Healthy Diet: Believe it or not, there are foods that have been shown to lower stress by decreasing blood pressure and boosting mood. Examples include: avocado, blueberries, crisp vegetables (celery, carrots, peppers, etc.), dark chocolate, milk, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, salmon and sweet potatoes.
  2. Good Sleep: Proper rest allows the body and mind to recharge, which both help in the fight against stress. Americans today get 40 percent less sleep than the body needs to function at its best. The benefits of adequate rest include: muscle repair, improved memory and heightened focus.
  3. Regular, Moderate Exercise: The body and mind work together, so it may come as no surprise that physical activity is beneficial in managing stress.The release of endorphins works to boost energy, endorse positive thinking and improve overall cognitive function.
  4. Positive Psychology: To challenge everyday stressors, work on spreading positivity in your own life. Consider trying the following exercises:
    • Write down three new things you are grateful for each day.
    • Spend five minutes journaling about a meaningful experience from the past 24 hours.
    • Dedicate two minutes to write an e-mail or thank a person in your social support network.
  5. Cognitive Restructuring: Train the brain to practice positive by actively replacing stressful thoughts with more realistic and positive thoughts.
  6. Self-Observation: Being aware of behavior allows for a heightened sense of action/reaction, which can change one’s natural response to stress. However, being cognizant of unrealistically negative thoughts and actively replacing them with more realistic and positive thoughts can modify the habit over time.
  7. Time Management: Managing commitments, avoiding procrastination and categorizing tasks effectively reduces stress. Try the following tactics:
    • Time Log: Record how much time is spent on each activity daily. Then, list how much time you would like to spend on each type of activity.
    • Prioritize: Categorize a to-do list and set quantifiable goals to achieve each task.
  8. Problem Solving: In situations of stress, seek to identify and fully understand the problem to effectively brainstorm alternative solutions.
  9. Relaxation Training: Taking time to relax can restore emotional well-being, boost critical thinking and reduce the production of stress hormones. Simple methods include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.
  10. Seeking Help When Necessary: It’s important to identify when stress is beyond one’s control and professional help is necessary. Severe, long-lasting symptoms of stress can lead to chronic conditions such as: heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and depression or anxiety.

Photo Credit: J E Theriot

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