8 Simple Ways to Stress Less and Be Happier
Stress takes its toll on our bodies. Here are the best ways to handle life’s busy seasons.
Pick the right social support
According to Anisman, one of the most important ways to cope with stress is to talk to a friend. But make sure it’s a supportive relationship.
“When you confide in someone and they tell you ‘I told you so,’ that’s not helpful,” says Anisman. There are also people in our lives who are “stress-givers.”
“They are glass-half-empty people. They affect everyone around them,” Anisman explains.
Try to talk to them about changing their behaviour, or gradually reduce contact with them if possible, he advises.
Exercise with a friend
Feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, which are released when we exercise, are a great antidote to stress. And ask a supportive friend to join you.
“Not only will you be more inclined to not skip your daily fitness when someone is counting on you, it also gets you that much-needed social support,” says Anisman.
Try a supplement or two
During times of stress, vitamin C, vitamin B, magnesium and tyrosine (an amino acid that is the building block of the neurotransmitter dopamine) “are all depleted in the body,” explains Aileen Burford-Mason, an immunologist, cell biologist and author of Eat Well, Age Better.
She recommends taking these supplements daily to enhance what you get from food.
Try to be more Type B
There are people who are just more mentally relaxed than others, and these Type B personalities likely suffer from fewer psychological-related illnesses, says Anisman.
“But if you are Type A, you can modify many of the features associated with that personality through mindfulness meditation.” This is a combination of meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy, which is taught by a therapist and helps you learn to change your perspective to a more positive one.
Explains Anisman, “Mindfulness meditation teaches you to ‘think in the moment,’ to not worry about tomorrow, as it will take care of itself or you will take care of it.”
Sleep-wherever you can
Not getting enough sleep makes us more susceptible to the effects of stress, says Anisman. “If stress comes along when you’re tired, you aren’t going to cope with a problem the same way you would if you were bright and alert.”
And if your inability to get to sleep and stay asleep has you feeling stressed out, Anisman says you should consider changing your pattern.”If you easily fall asleep in a favourite chair in front of the TV, or on the couch, then go ahead and sleep there,” he says.
Take a new view
“One of the worst things you can do when overwhelmed is ruminate in a negative way,” says Anisman. For example, thinking about everything negatively, blaming others, blaming yourself…thinking this way gets you nowhere.”When you do this, you are pushing yourself into a depressive-like state.”
Instead, try to problem-solve by going through what you can do about the situation. Take a look at it as if you were a fly on the wall.
“Often if you remove yourself from an aggravating situation, you can see what’s really going on and figure out a solution. Try to be proactive.”
Avoid “stress eating”
Stress can influence your hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin, making you feel hungry even when you’re not. That’s one reason why so many people eat when they are stressed, explains Anisman.
“The problem is relying on foods that are high in fat and sugar to make you feel better. Eventually you are going to gain weight.”
In fact, a 2014 study from The Ohio State University found that women who experienced stress burned 104 fewer calories than woman who were not stressed after both ate high-fat meals. Researchers say this shows stress actually throws off our metabolism, leading to weight gain.
It may seem counterintuitive to those who are already very busy, but volunteering can really help reduce your stress. That’s especially true if your stress is caused by loneliness at a time of year when most people are with family and friends.
“There are studies that show it’s very rewarding to do nice things for others,”says Anisman. “It diminishes our feelings of stress and loneliness, and it makes us feel good.”