Studies have shown that stress can wreak havoc not only on the body but also almost every area of your life. Unaddressed stress can cause sleep disturbances, poor eating habits, health problems, acne break outs, angry outbursts and even addictive behaviors.
One of the healthiest ways to combat stress is through exercise. When you exercise, natural endorphins are released that are said to be as potent as taking Prozac. That is right. According to a London research conducted in 2007, Mycobacterium vaccae, which is a bacteria found in soil, stimulates the precise neurons in the brain that Prozac does. So when out running trails, for instance, our feet kick up the soil and we absorb particles to provide our brains with a positive mood booster similar to that of antidepressant, psychotropic medication. Who would have ever thought? According to the article, when serotonin levels are low in our brains it can cause a number of mental ailments such anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.
So, it’s not just hiking that benefits our bodies. Exercise in general raises our serotonin levels, which helps because most antidepressants actually work by blocking specific proteins that decreases serotonin levels. Exercise is a very effective way to combat stress. The excuse that you simply don’t have the time to hit the gym or you find yourself dreading even the thought of pushing your body is precisely why you need a work out. Hey, who says you have to run a marathon tomorrow or climb Mt. Whitney? If you have done both, that’s fantastic. For those already extremely athletic combating stress through exercise is effortless. But, if there are already looming deadlines and a heavy work load on your plate, then maybe start small. Especially if you are not the exercise type or the gym rat that goes 5-6 times a week.
Try going for a simple walk or even a hike. If you don’t have much free time, then aim to carve out 20 or 30 minutes to get out and enjoy a walk, especially in sunlight. Sunlight helps to boost serotonin levels.
Do something you love such as a hobby: painting; photography; knitting; writing; cooking; horseback riding; dancing; creating music; gardening; kayaking; etc. If you don’t already have a hobby, get one!
If you are the fugal type or simply on a budget, then rent a new movie at your nearest Redbox for a $1.20 per day (standard) or Blue-ray for $1.50. Or if you are a Netflix subscriber, for about $9 a month you can always binge on some of your favorite television shows or catch up on some of the newer movies Netflix just stocked its virtual shelves to stream to movie buffs, all streamed straight to your television or delivered to your front door.
If you find yourself in a stressful situation, try taking a step back and seeing the humor in the situation. Laughter actually reduces stress levels in the body and decreases depression. Laughter really is the best medicine as it can be a great mood-boosting tool. So, lighten up and try not to take yourself or circumstances at hand so seriously.
As difficult as it is to hear when you are actually in a stressful situation, realize that it could always be worse. Sometimes this cliché is rather annoying to hear because inside you might be screaming: “But, you don’t understand … this really sucks!” Maybe your situation does suck. But, will it get better by fretting, freaking out, worrying, going nuts, going off, throwing a tantrum, or taking it out on others? Think about it. Will your current situation benefit at all by exhibiting negative or poor coping skills? If anything, your situation will only get worse. Your body, mind, spirit, soul, and every area of your life including those around you will be infected by your stress.
You have every right to have a bad day here and there. And if you want to scream into a pillow, go ahead. Or tear up an old phone book. Even better, go to the gym and throw some kicks at the punching bag, or get your pump on in the weight room. Don’t let stress rob you of sanity and even make you ill. You can get through this, and the way to do so is to find healthy stress reducing activities, hobbies and ways of relaxing that helps you to decompress in a productive versus a destructive way. Don’t let stress spread like a plague in your life and thus destroy any ounce of joy or silver lining left.