Top 6 Ways to Reduce Stress and Boost Mood
We're living in unprecedented times. Humans, more connected than ever via virtual and remote social networks, are also the most physically disconnected from others that they've ever been. This is undoubtedly due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, recent social unrest, and other economic and political events which have led to a more anxious, frustrated, and depressed population.
Many (perhaps even you) are nervous, scared, and sad. Instead of simply hoping the situation improves, there are six easy steps one can take to reduce stress and boost mood in the near-term.
Here are the ways to de-stress and feel better, naturally:
1. Get Better Sleep
Getting proper rest is extremely important! Following a normal / regular sleep cycle resulting in sufficient rest helps calm your mind and restore your energy so you can focus and deal with stressors more efficiently when you wake. Poor sleep can cause irritability and nobody likes to be around an irritable person. Inadequate sleep may cause you to consume more caffeine, which theoretically increases stress. Chronic insomnia may lead to mood disorders, such as depression. Try setting an alarm to alert you when it's time to prepare for bed and aim for 8 hours!
2. Exercise Regularly
Get moving. Regular exercise - or physical stress - reduces cognitive stress hormones, such as adrenaline (levels spike during panic attacks), while increasing endorphins (chemicals produced by your body that relieve pain and stress). Any kind of exercise that increases your heart rate works well - a short 20 minute work will do the trick. Some prefer more vigorous training, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or crossfit, for example.
3. Improve Diet
Adhering to a proper diet can counterbalance the negative effects of stress by reducing blood pressure and strengthening your immune system. Eating a healthy diet that's rich in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains can lower your blood pressure. Also, make sure to reduce sodium intake (sodium increases blood pressure). Strengthen your immune system by consuming foods that are high in vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc (these nutrients will also help combat symptoms of COVID).
Try to limit caffeine intake. As discussed earlier, caffeine increases stress conditions for the body. Consider skipping the morning coffee or other energy drinks high in caffeine if you're feeling stressed. You may not even desire a stimulant if you get proper rest!
Lastly, reduce alcohol intake because, well, there are no positive benefits. Many turn to alcohol during period of stress and anxiety. You may feel better under the influence, but I guarantee you won't when you wake up the next morning with "hangxiety". Alcohol also increases blood pressure and can negatively affect your quality of sleep.
Spending just a few minutes per day meditation may drastically improve your mood by restoring calmness and reducing physical and mental tension. It's easy, free, and doesn't require any equipment. If you're looking for a "how-to" guide, there are plenty of free tutorials on YouTube, and many apps that you can download such as Headspace, Calm, and Aura. It's not difficult, and there are many techniques that work well and don't require you to sit in silence on the floor with your legs crossed. We're also a big fan of practicing breathing exercises, such as "box breathing", which consists of slow and deep breaths for 3 - 4 seconds (breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4). This technique may help increase concentration and relieve stress.
Studies have shown a strong link between heavy social media use and an increased risk for loneliness, anxiety, and depression. It's important to disconnect from time-to-time. Put your phone down, perhaps in another room, and don't pick it up for a while. Do something else. Go for a walk. Read a book. Cook. Fold laundry. Whatever. Just disconnect from social networks, media outlets, and other brain-melting, time-wasting content, and live in the present. It will do wonders for your overall mood.
6. Take a CBD Supplement
Research shows that consuming CBD (cannabidiol) may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. This potent plant extract interacts with your endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) to help regulate your central nervous system and peripheral system - specifically, serotonin - which is a neurotransmitter that aids in the management of your mental health. The best part is that it's natural (derived from hemp), it's non-toxic, non-psychoactive, and there are no known side-effects.
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