4 ways to manage your stress: Stress Awareness Day

More than 1 in 4 Canadians describe their lives as highly stressful. From work to relationships, parenting and children to finances, there are no lack of things to be stressed about. It's not the stressors themselves which are negative. Most sources of stress are actually impossible to get rid of in our lives. The problem is how some people react to stress. 

When facing a stressful situation our brain kicks in and starts to produce adrenaline- the fight or flight hormone. This is an evolutionary response designed to get you ready to deal with this stress. Since we are no longer cave men and don't need to attack or fend off any woolly mammoths it's best to not let the adrenaline take over and to keep our stress in check. 

So, how can you do this? The first step is realizing that things are dialing up and taking the steps (literally!) to bring them back down. Here are a few tips to quickly de-escalate stressful situations: 

1. Deep breaths! Most people forget to breathe when they're stressed. By taking a moment to slow down your breathing you'll kick start the body's natural relaxation response. Slow, deep breathing automatically starts to lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate and brings on overall relaxation. The best part- you can do this anytime or anywhere, even in the middle of a big meeting or on the dentist's chair. 

2. Take a hike. Or a walk. Just get moving! By getting outside and getting a bit of exercise you can not only change the situation but you can start to calm yourself down by stimulating cells in the brain that relax you and reduce your anxiety. 

3. Snooze away. Most people are not getting enough sleep. Besides contributing to many health issues and diseases (from obesity to diabetes), when you're less rested you'll have a harder time managing stressful situations. When you're overtired bad situations will appear larger, harder to solve and more frustrating. Try to get your 8 hours of sleep regularly and the world will seem a little easier to manage. 

4. Make time for yourself. Seems easier said than done, right? WRONG! The "I'm too busy" argument doesn't work here. Our brains are not wired to be working 18 hours a day. Everyone needs some down time and productivity and focus is increased after short breaks, particularly if these breaks are to engage in an activity or task you enjoy. So take that break to do something pleasurable for yourself and come back to the tasks at hand with renewed energy. 

Do you think you have too much stress in your life? The Canadian Mental Health Association has an online Stress Index. Take a moment and complete it to see where your stress levels fall and if you're in need of more techniques to start to get your stress under control.