Why Should You Care About Stress?
I firmly believe that stress is the root of all illness. Sure, genetics play a role in certain diseases, but stress is the consequence by which our poor lifestyle choices harm us, and I would argue it is those choices that have the biggest impact on our health. If you choose not to protect yourself from sun exposure, it is oxidative stress induced by ultraviolet radiation to your skin cells that harms their DNA and promotes the development of skin cancer. Choosing to eat the standard American diet deprives our bodies of the antioxidants it needs to handle stress induced damage and promotes inflammation throughout the body, contributing to autoimmune conditions as well as acne, rosacea and aged appearing skin. These are just two examples. Bottom line, stress is not your friend.
How to Relieve Stress:
The great news is there are so many ways! You can even make some daily activities stress relieving simply by focusing on being present as you do them, not just going through the motions.
Mindfulness. This is the most important one. Mindfulness allows you to reflect inward and can help you figure out what serves you and what does not. Becoming more mindful can help you gain insight into why you make the choices you do and help you make better ones, even if they are the harder ones. Mindfulness can happen anywhere, anytime, and with practice, most of the time. Letting your mind worry about the future and dwell in the past is a recipe for stress. There are many amazing apps and podcasts that provide guidance. For me, yoga provides the mind-body connection that allows me to focus on the present. Maybe you practice during your morning and evening skin care routine. Maybe it is snuggling quietly with your child or pet, focusing on your breathing and theirs. Pushing thoughts away, focusing on sensations, just being in the moment.
Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins that reduce stress. Obviously, there is a lot of information out there on this topic and the myriad of other benefits. Maybe combine your exercise with mindfulness. Of course, I am thinking about yoga again, but it could be pilates or a run. Play a group sport and strengthen relationships (see #5). I think the bare minimum is 30 minutes of walking a day.
Getting as close as possible to a whole food plant-based diet. Our diets need to be rich in antioxidants to ward off the damage stress is causing our cells. Our diets should also be free of animal products and processed foods that increase inflammation and stress throughout the body.
Sex. Sex induces stress fighting endorphins, as well as improves relationships (see #5) and promotes restful sleep (see #6).
Strong Relationships. Spend meaningful time with those important to you. Strong relationships allow you to feel connection and support, which reduces stress.
Sleep. Make it a priority. Poor sleep=stress through hormone changes. Sleep generally improves with all the above. Have a bedtime routine to get your body ready every night. No devices for the hour before if you struggle.
There is obviously stress we cannot avoid. Maybe it is related to work, family issues or social strains. Looking for ways to reduce these types of stressors is ideal, but even if they cannot be changed, by taking care of your body and mind, you can reduce the negative impact.