How to relieve stress
In the modern age, we are under more pressure than ever before – and it’s not hard to see why!
Maybe you’re finding it tough to balance your hectic work schedule with an equally demanding family life. Or perhaps you’re feeling more drained and finding it harder to focus as you get older – yet another source of worry to add to the growing mountain of stress1.
Luckily, there are ways to deal with stress and better navigate the twists and turns of your daily life.
To help you, the team at Instant Knockout Academy have done the research and looked into the science behind stress and the risks it poses to different aspects of your life. Just so you can be aware of just how dangerous it can be. We want you to be aware of the best ways to ease the pressure and how to relieve stress.
So let’s get into it…
What is stress?
In basic terms, stress is a response to a demand or threat. Whether real or imagined, this triggers a fight-or-flight response; an automatic process that is your body’s way of protecting you. And it’s been that way since the dawn of Mankind.
But here’s the problem
Unfortunately, this stress response is not fine-tuned to the chaos of modern life. In evolutionary terms, the way you respond to stress is exactly the same as it would have been if you had lived in a cave in prehistoric times2.
In essence, your body triggers the same response when you’re stuck in traffic as it would if you were running to evade the jaws of a saber-toothed tiger.
That’s not to say that your stress isn’t legitimate. After all, many life events can make you feel that way. From the pressure of work, to losing your job or going through a divorce – there’s a vast array of valid reasons to become stressed.
That said, stress is only meant to be a momentary response to the real or perceived demand or threat we talked about earlier. And when stress becomes chronic, it comes with a wealth of potential risks…
There are times when stress becomes too much to deal with. For example, in a high-pressure job you may find your body activates the stress response repeatedly – and this is when it can become ‘chronic’ – or long-term – stress.
As the body is not designed to deal with ongoing chronic stress, this can cause or aggravate serious health problems, such as3:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Stomach issues
- Hair loss
- Trouble sleeping
If you’ve developed any of the more serious health issues listed above, it may be wise to consult your doctor.
That said, there may be a few small actions you can take to de-stress on your own…
How to relieve stress – Tips to reduce and prevent it
We can imagine you have a lot going on in your life and career and know that getting rid of stress isn’t as simple as telling yourself to ‘chill out’. After all, it’s not always easy to wind down.
In light of this, here are six tips to help you de-stress and take better control of your life:
Exercise makes you feel happier. In fact, it pumps you full of endorphins – neurotransmitters that help you feel good. Although this sensation is often referred to as ‘runner’s high’, a good swim, game of squash – or any strenuous activity – can produce the same feeling.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), just five minutes of aerobic exercise can help you decompress4.
You already know that exercise can boost your overall health. Well, if you suffer from chronic stress, a good workout may not only improve the way you feel in that moment – it could help repair some of the damage that might been caused by all that worry and anxiety over time5.
2. Eat a healthy diet
The foods you eat are arguably just as – if not more – important than exercise for dealing with stress.
But it’s vital to choose the right foods
While you might be tempted to turn to so-called ‘comfort foods’ like chocolate, burgers or ice-cream for a quick feel-good fix of dopamine, this won’t help you deal with stress in the long run.
In fact, bingeing on these kinds of unhealthy foods can lead to obesity. And the sweet taste can lead to “addictive-like behaviors”, which can cause withdrawal and only serve to make stress more intense6.
Instead, choose healthier foods like7:
- Wholemeal bread
- Green vegetables
- Fatty fish
- Nuts & seeds
A bowl of oatmeal may boost serotonin (another feel-good chemical) and cut levels of cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone). Meanwhile, fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna) is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are thought to help prevent stress increases.
This doesn’t mean you need to give up the ice-cream completely. To achieve a proper balance and avoid the guilty feeling when you do indulge, consider following the 80/20 rule. So for example, if you eat 21 meals a week (or 3 per day), that means you can eat 4 more indulgent meals alongside 17 healthy ones in a seven-day period8.
3. Just… breathe
Breathing is great for helping you get rid of stress – especially extreme stress. When we feel stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths.
So when stress hits you, use the following breathing technique9:
1. Sitting or standing (making sure you’re comfortable), place both feet flat on the floor (roughly hip-width apart).
2. Take a deep breath in and fill up your chest with air.
3. Without holding your breath, let the breath flow out gently.
4. Repeat frequently – it may help to count from 1 to 5.
5. Continue this exercise for 3-5 minutes.
By consciously changing the way you breathe, you can help reduce your stress level10.
4. Get more (and better) sleep
It’s said that 50% of CEOs get less than six hours of sleep each night11. And if you’re chasing success (or even greater success), you may think you need to work yourself to the bone to achieve your goals.
But science tells a different story.
In fact, statistics shows that many of us just aren’t getting enough sleep. Data from the Sleep Foundation suggests that 35% of Americans self-report their sleep quality as “only fair” or “poor”12.
A lack of sleep can have serious consequences for your health. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), say that 1 in 3 American adults don’t get enough. The CDC goes on to state that not getting enough shuteye can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, mental distress and more13.
Further research from HULT International School also shows that getting just 30 minutes less than the amount of sleep you need can seriously impact your work performance14. In light of this you need to make sure you get enough good quality sleep each night. Here are four ways that could help you do just that:
Tips for better (and more) sleep
- Sleep at the same time every night
- Turn of your cellphone and the TV at least an hour before bed (avoid blue light exposure)15
- Avoid napping during the day16
5. Have more sex
Sex is a great stress reliever. It’s a lot like aerobic exercise in the sense that it can trigger the release of endorphins to help lift your mood. While a stressful week can temporarily wreck your drive for sex, some ‘couple time’ between the sheets may also improve your mood and help you feel less stressed.
Sex can also activate the release of other feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin to help flood your body with a sense of satisfaction and well-being17.
As a way to manage stress, sex is a quick (hopefully not that quick) way to put the stress behind you.
6. Try nootropics
Natural nootropics are supplements made from herbs, amino acids and other non-synthetic chemicals that are said to provide a range of cognitive benefits – not least the potential for lifting your mood and helping you loosen up.
Nootropics to help reduce stress include the following:
Ashwagandha: Also known as an adaptogen, this herb has been used for centuries to reduce stress and anxiety. Modern research also appears to confirm ashwagandha’s potential ability to relieve stress18.
L-tyrosine (or N-acetyl-L-tyrosine): This amino acid has been found to reduce stress and improve focus under pressure19.
Bacopa monnieri: Another herb, bacopa is thought to help block the release of cortisol – the body’s main stress hormone. It has also been shown to increase relaxing brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin20.
Phosphatidylserine: Studies show this natural brain chemical can reduce cortisol – especially in response to stress caused by exercise. Phosphatidylserine may even improve your golf swing (which can be affected by stress)21 22.
L-theanine: This amino acid is said to promote “relaxation without sedation”. It may be useful for those times when you have a ton of work to do, but you’re finding it hard to focus due to stress23. Theanine has also found to help improve sleep quality, which can also affect your response to stress24.
Passionflower: Also known as Valeriana officinalis, this herbal supplement is known primarily for its apparent ability to reduce stress and anxiety. It is also thought to prevent insomnia and reduce fatigue – both of which are potential symptoms of stress25 26 27.
Health benefits of reducing stress
For much of this article, we’ve been hammering home the risks associated with stress. We’ve also given you tips on how to relieve the tension.
And you already know what stress feels like – that’s why you’re reading this article, right?
But to show you just how important it can be, here’s a list of potential benefits for reducing stress:
- Improve sleep
- Lift your mood – reduce anger and irritability
- Prevent fatigue
- Improve your memory
- Focus on what’s important
- Be more resilient
- Become more productive at work
- Become ill less frequently
- Enhance your sex drive
- Communicate more easily
- Prevent high blood pressure/heart disease/strokes
- Boost your self-esteem
- Lose weight & prevent weight gain
Take a look at the benefits above. As you can see, there’s a lot to gain from reducing stress in your life – not least in terms of your health, relationships, self-esteem and work performance.
The bottom line
Modern life is chaotic and busy – so no-one can blame you if you get stressed from time to time. It’s your body’s way of alerting you to threats or some form of pressure.
But sometimes stress can get too much. And when that happens, it can have a serious impact on your health, relationships and productivity. To ensure you keep on top of things and stay in control of your health, wealth, family and career – it could be time to take steps to help keep stress in check. This isn’t a comprehensive list of how to relieve stress, but it’s definitely a good start.
Start by exercising more, getting more sleep and eating better – this should help keep stress hormones at bay, while also triggering the release of so-called ‘happy hormones’ like dopamine and serotonin. And while you’re at it – have more sex to relieve any extra tension!
Or to relieve stress in the moment, try some deep breathing.