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5 Easy Ways to Beat Stress

5 Easy Ways to Beat Stress

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the stresses and strains of modern life, then you’re not alone. It is estimated that 77% of Americans experience physical symptoms of stress on a regular basis, while as many as 1 in 3 experience extreme stress at some point every week!

Some people believe this is down to the fact that we are now expected to work longer hours (sometimes around the clock), leaving us with less time to spend with family and friends. Others think the blame lies with our ever-growing obsession with money and status. Whatever the cause, the problem only seems to be getting worse.

Stress can have an enormous impact on our physical health. It is thought that 75–90% of all doctor’s visits are due to a stress-induced ailment. Feeling stressed on a regular basis has been linked with everything from an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, to depression, bipolar disorder and social anxiety. Clearly, we need to change the way we live before stress catches up with us. But what can we do? Here are 5 easy ways to beat stress that you can put into practice right now.

1. Tweak your diet to beat stress.

It is amazing how much of an impact tiny changes can have on your overall health and well-being. The same is true of keeping your stress levels at bay. One simple but effective way of beating stress is incorporating some high-quality dark chocolate into your day.

That’s right, you heard me: chocolate.

Although we might think of comfort-eating as a very bad way to cope with negative emotions, there is actually good reason to indulge in a small amount of dark chocolate if you’re feeling the pressure.

Chocolate contains several chemicals that closely resemble anandamide, an essential fatty acid proven to have a major role in alleviating feelings of stress and anxiety, and promoting feelings of happiness and contentment. It also contains compounds called N-acylethanolamines that inhibit the breakdown of anandamide, meaning more of it stays in the blood for longer. It is thought that these chemicals explain why chocolate has been used as a comfort food, delicacy, drug, and medicine throughout history.

Quite tellingly, the word anandamide is derived from ananda, the Sanskrit word for “bliss.”

Incorporating a small amount of high-quality dark chocolate into your daily diet can ensure that you have relatively high anandamide levels all-day long. This can have a profound impact on your stress levels.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should eat Hershey Bar after Hershey Bar every day. But by eating a few pieces of cocoa-rich chocolate when your stress levels creep up, you can take the edge off some of the worst symptoms, leaving you to get on with your day.

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There are lots of other easy ways to beat stress through your diet. Feeling anxious and depressed? Try eating more asparagus. This will ensure that you have a sufficient intake of folic acid. Folic acid deficiencies have been linked with a wide range of mental symptoms, including lethargy, depression, anxiety, and acute stress. Eating just one cup of asparagus can give you about half of your daily intake of folate; more than enough to see you through the morning feeling stress-free.

Another easy way to beat stress naturally is to up your fat intake. I don’t mean that you need to start visiting McDonald’s more. Consuming more trans and saturated fats won’t do a great deal for your stress levels. What you need to increase is your intake of monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats are known to help lower LDL cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol) levels. This will, in turn, help keep your blood pressure low. Many of the more serious side effects of stress can be avoided if you keep your blood pressure within a normal, healthy range.

Try eating more healthy oils, olives, avocados and nuts on a daily basis. You don’t need to make drastic changes; just chop an avocado into your salad and drizzle on some olive oil, or have a bag of nuts with lunch. Easy, cheap, and effective.

2. Exercise right.

Easy Ways Beat Stress Exercise Correctly

    Most people know that exercise is a good way of keeping stress at bay. It lets us let out all the anger and frustration we might have stored up over the course of a busy day. Whether you prefer pounding on a punch bag, punishing yourself in the squat rack, or hitting the pavement, exercise is a good way to clear your head and let off some steam.

    However, a recent study found that all exercises are not created equal as far as stress management goes.

    Researchers from a Finnish University used rats to examine the impact on brain growth of three different types of exercise: steady state cardio, high intensity interval training, and weight/resistance training. Over the course of seven weeks, the three groups were put through their specified exercise regimen on a daily basis. At the end of the seven weeks, the researchers measured how much neurogenesis (or “brain growth”) had occurred in the hippocampus.

    The rats doing resistance training registered no extra neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

    The rats doing high intensity interval training exhibited some growth, but nothing too impressive.

    The rats doing regular steady state cardio, on the other hand, showed remarkable levels of neurogenesis. In the words of the NYT reporter who covered the story, their hippocampal tissue “teemed with new neurons.”

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    Why is that important? The hippocampus gets hit when we get stressed. It gets hit hard. Of all the “area”‘ of the brain, the hippocampus seems to be particularly sensitive to stress. If you find yourself stressed on a daily basis, then it’s likely that your hippocampus has experienced some degree of degeneration. This is serious: the hippocampus is largely responsible for memory, learning, and according to some, emotions.

    Steady state cardio can therefore serve as more than just a way of letting off some steam. Done regularly; it can help reverse some of the worst effects of chronic stress.

    3. Supplement smart.

    If you find that things like diet and exercise don’t help, then supplements might represent a quick and easy way to beat stress. Done intelligently, supplementing can actually help you eliminate stress from your daily life altogether.

    But isn’t that expensive?

    Buying top-of-the-range supplements can be expensive, but there’s no need to part with a big chunk of your hard-earned cash to eliminate stress from your life. While there are hundreds of pre-made supplement stacks designed to promote clear thinking and reduce anxiety, you can effectively lower your stress levels by taking the right combination of good value, un-branded vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts.

    For instance, if stress is keeping you up at night, you could try supplementing with some valerian root. This stuff has been used for centuries as a mild sedative, but its effects aren’t anywhere near as strong as prescription sleeping pills, and it’s nowhere near as side-effect ridden.

    You can get hold of this and similar supplements in any health food shop, and some pharmacies will stock it for sale over-the-counter. While it may not be immediately effective, it is definitely beneficial to start with a weaker sedative and work your way up to something stronger if necessary. If you just need something to help you relax of an evening, this might be a great place to start.

    Other natural extracts that are thought to have potent anxiolytic (stress-reducing) properties include Siberian Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Lemon Balm, Rhodiola Rosea, and St. John’s Wort. You may also be able to find some fairly cheap but effective relaxation teas to help you get a good night’s sleep.

    4. Have the right attitude.

    A way to beat stress immediately is to give yourself an attitude overhaul.

    Obviously, I’m not so naive as to think that you can just think your stress away. If you could do that, then you would have done so already.

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    But, we can change how we feel about the things that are causing us stress by acting differently towards them. The simple truth of the matter is: acting happy can make us happy.

    This isn’t some baseless spiel from a second-rate “life coach.” I am talking about a robustly supported psychological theory.

    Numerous experiments have found that people told to act in a certain way, i.e with confidence and certainty, tended to have greater confidence in their abilities when later questioned by researchers.

    You can even do a little experiment with yourself. Spend a whole morning acting sad, and you’ll almost certainly feel it for real by the afternoon.

    In the same way, it’s possible to significantly reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety simply by acting as though you don’t have a care in the world. This could be in simple ways, such as smiling more, or walking calmly with your head held high.

    Or it could be in more dramatic ways, such as leaving work on time every day, or turning off your phone in the evening. Whatever way you do it, just make sure that you do it consistently.

    After a few days of acting, talking and smiling as though you haven’t got a clue what “stress” means, you’re bound to feel a great deal better.

    5. Make your world stress-free.

    Quick Easy Ways to Beat Stress

      Your home should be your castle. More importantly, it should be a stress-free zone at all times—no excuses!

      There are some really easy ways to make sure that you don’t bring your stress home with you, and one of the simplest is to get a house plant. It shouldn’t surprise you that we have a deep biological affinity with plants; we just love being around them. It’s what we’re used to, evolutionarily speaking, and being in familiar surroundings helps us stay calm.

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      You don’t need to go crazy with these. Just get one for the hallway so it’s the first thing you see when you get home, and a couple more for around the house. Ideally, get something that doesn’t need a lot of attention, otherwise it might become another source of stress!

      Another good tactic to employ is to build yourself a “cleansing zone.” This will be really easy if you have a porch. Set yourself up a table near the front door, with space for your keys, phone, files, wallet, laptop, mail—pretty much anything that you bring through the door with you that keeps you away from your family.

      Go through everything when you get in, dealing with anything that needs to be dealt with. Once that is done, walk away. Do not return to the “cleansing zone” until you’re heading out for work the next day.

      This is a really simple tactic, but in my experience, it’s really effective at creating a mental barrier between your home life and your work life.

      6. Putting it all into practice!

      Putting all of this advice into practice in one go is probably not the best way to go about things. Instead, try picking a few simple things to do right away, and choose one or two things to start building into your daily routine.

      Start small, but be consistent. If you really want to eliminate stress from your life, then you need to understand that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

      Here are 5 easy steps to get you started:

      1. Buy a houseplant.
      2. Eat more avocado and have dark chocolate for dessert.
      3. Buy some relaxing herbal tea and drink a cup before bed.
      4. Take a long lunch every day where you don’t check your phone.
      5. Start running once a week.

      Once you’ve done all of these, pick something else. Pretty soon, you’ll forget why you even read this article. You might even forget why you cared!

      Featured photo credit: http://blog.gymlion.com/ via blog.gymlion.com

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      Eric Jackson

      Self-employed

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      Last Updated on September 28, 2020

      The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

      The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

      At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

      Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

      One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

      When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

      So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

      Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

      This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

      Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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      When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

      Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

      One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

      Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

      An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

      When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

      Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

      Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

      We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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      By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

      Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

      While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

      I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

      You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

      Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

      When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

      Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

      Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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      Con #2: Less Human Interaction

      One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

      Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

      Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

      This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

      While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

      Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

      Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

      This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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      For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

      Con #4: Unique Distractions

      Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

      For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

      To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

      Final Thoughts

      Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

      We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

      More About Working From Home

      Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

      Reference

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