7 Free & Healthy Ways To Deal With Stress

mbg Contributor By Cindy Saleeby Goulding, M.S., LPC
mbg Contributor
Cindy Saleeby Goulding, M.S., LPC, is a licensed behavioral counselor and personal trainer. She is passionate about sharing holistic approaches to wellness and is the author of Healthy Weight: It’s a Family Affair.

We're always going to have stress in our lives. What’s important is how we react to pressure and how we manage (and reduce) our negative emotions during the day. Making healthy choices can make a big difference in how you feel and in improving your overall health. Here are some tips:

1. Check in throughout the day to see how you are breathing. 

Are you taking slow, deep breaths? Are you inhaling through the nose? This is a good opportunity to see if you are sitting or standing with a straight back and relaxed shoulders. Avoiding a slumped posture and shallow breathing can help keep your stress level down by increasing your energy level and oxygen flow your body needs.

2. Make a list. 

Writing a list of things you want to complete can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Focus on what needs to get done first and complete that task so you feel a sense of accomplishment and can check it off your list.

3. Exercise! 

Not only does exercising give you a boost of energy, it also releases the good mood chemicals in your brain. It’s a great de-stressor and can actually reduce pain. To be heart healthy, aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity, five days a week. Examples include: walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, or anything that raises your heart rate for at least 20 minutes. Start out taking baby steps and gradually build up your duration.

4. Sleep. 

Getting restful sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Feeling rested within 30 minutes of waking up can set the tone for the rest of the day with your mood, energy, and stress level. Practice good sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day, exercising during the day, being in a quiet, comfortable, and dark room. Avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol since they can disrupt your sleep. And log off your computer long before you plan to get your zzzs.

5. Choose your food wisely. 

Eating nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and protein-based foods like nuts, yogurt, and fish can boost your energy levels. Avoid foods that are high in refined sugar such as cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and candy, as they can affect your mood, make you feel lethargic, and they don’t have essential nutrients.

6. Go easy on the booze. 

Avoid excessive alcohol as it can be dehydrating and is a depressant, which can affect your mood.

7. Make time to play.

Give yourself time to have fun and laugh. Creating a work/play balance is essential for maintaining emotional health, and reduces feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, or even resentful. Making playtime a priority will improve your focus, productivity and feelings of relaxation.

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