Reducing Stress as Summer Winds Down

Deb Morris Blog, Health

Four months ago, we recognized April as National Stress Awareness Month. Stress can be triggered by anything. Work-related deadlines, parenting worries, illness, loss of a loved one, even running from the law. If not handled properly, stress can cripple you. And while most people have a romanticized version of these carefree dog days of summer, there’s a whole other level of stress that comes as the season winds down. Even a “relaxing” vacation in August can cause more stress than tranquility.

It’s common knowledge that mental health affects physical health, as the brain controls the body. Too much stress and anxiety can cause high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches and migraines … and those can lead to other health issues! If you’re the type with a busy schedule and stress is a 24/7 emotion for you, spend what’s left of the summer relaxing as much as you can and feel free to use some tips and tricks on how to avoid stress this month:

  1. Practice deep breathing – this is probably one of the most common de-stressors suggested, but there are real positive effects, even if you’re not a “master meditator.” Whether it’s an hour in a dark, cool room or five minutes by the water cooler, deep breathing lowers your blood pressure and helps you focus & gather your thoughts. Practicing deep breathing exercises in your spare time can make a positive impact on long-term health effects. Health experts suggest you take time throughout the day to practice breathing exercises – if you have trouble remembering or keeping track of the day, set timers or reminders every few hours! Or if you are about to do something that adds onto stress: meetings, phone calls, shopping, family reunions, etc., do a deep breathing exercise beforehand to help reduce overall anxiety going into an unpleasant situation.  
  2. Clean up as you go – for those who don’t clean to relax, piled up dishes and full trash cans can be a huge headache. The overwhelming domino effect of non daily cleaning is a gigantic stressor for most people. Microbabits, such as cleaning as you go, can eventually become a lifestyle which helps lower the overall impact of home life. Though it’s easy to just throw that pan in the sink after cooking, it takes thirty seconds to rinse, wash, dry and put away. If you finish a bag of chips, don’t put the trash on the table next to you, get up, walk to the garbage and throw it away. Simple things like this take time and practice to perfect, but can really help long term with your anxiety, cleanliness and save you tons of time in the future. 
  3. Reduce caffeine intake – “I’m not a person until I have my coffee” is not a brag. Unfortunately, caffeine is easy to become addicted or dependent on. Though it can help us wake up in the moment and give us an extra boost before commuting to work, eventually caffeine addiction can cause increased anxiety, stomach issues and sleeping problems. This is another practice that takes time and dedication but will help in the long run. Instead of cutting cold turkey, decrease your caffeine intake by getting half caf or switching to alternative methods such as natural fruits, exercising or whatever gets you going before you can eventually cut caffeine out all together. 
  4. Listen to happy music – next time you pull up your music app, try listening to some feel good playlists. As silly as it sounds, the music you listen to every day has a long term effect on your mental health. In fact, many studies have been done on music and how it changes our dopamine levels. A specific study showed that people who music specifically with upbeat lyrics and a fast paced tune not only increased their mood in the moment while listening, but their overall happiness in just two weeks. It’s much easier to combat stress and anxiety when you already feel good about yourself, so why not use a happy playlist to battle a hard day? 
  5. Eat chocolate – you knew this one would be on the list! In small amounts, dark chocolate has been shown to elevate moods thanks to Theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate. Let’s give magnesium some props here too. Chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral shown to reduce anxiety levels.