Do you ever feel guilty that you want to take some time off for yourself? To log off the computer and take some me-time? You’re not alone.
The stress levels of individuals have never been higher and there is no decline in sight. Yet, due to the constant pressure to meet a deadline, complete a task or advance in our careers there is no time for us to stop and breath.
While stress biologically helps us meet our goals and overcome challenges (Kemeny, 2003), it is not healthy for us in the long term. Our bodies are programmed to endure short periods of stress in order to overcome danger, however, allowing our bodies to be in a high state of fight or flight for long periods of time can cause harm to our bodies. This harm may include but is not limited to: high blood pressure, fatigue, diabetes and even heart disease.
Therefore the big question is then, how do we combat this?
Unfortunately, due to the structure of our society it is difficult to completely cut out the stressors that affect us on a daily basis. However, there are ways that we can seek to decrease our stress levels and prioritize self care.
1.Allow yourself to have some me-time: Whether that be through drawing yourself a bath, snuggling up and reading a book or even watching your favorite reality TV show, taking some time to do the things that make us feel good and unwind will help our bodies return to a neutral state and decrease our stress hormones.
2. Get some physical exercise: Studies have shown that engaging in some form of aerobic exercise at least 2 days a week significantly reduced the perceived stress of the participants. Whether it’s before you start your day or a walk between meetings with a friend, getting in some exercise may help you feel better throughout the day.
3.Learn to say no: While it might be scary to say no, creating a boundary with those who may heighten your levels of stress is a way to look out for your health. This may include saying no to a friend who wants to catch up on your one day off, or no to a colleague who continuously piles their responsibilities on you. Saying no is one way to control some of the stress in our life.
4.Eating healthy: While you might be sick of hearing people telling you to eat healthier, it is important to keep in mind that our diet affects our mental health. Studies have shown that those who consume highly processed foods are more likely to have a higher perceived level of stress than those who have a more nutritious diet. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out all the foods that you love, however, it might be helpful to consider cutting down on the number of take-away dinners per week or swapping out soft drink for a glass of water every once in a while.
5.Reach out to those who you trust: Whether that be a family member, friend or partner, ask for help or support when you feel like the stress may be becoming too much for you to handle. Sometimes the company of those who we love will help us feel better as it provides an opportunity for us to remove ourselves from the stress or simply just vent (bonus: cuddles also help too by releasing a chemical called oxytocin which reduces the stress hormones in our bodies.
Ultimately, the goal is to calm your body down so it doesn’t feel as though it is in a constant state of danger. Prioritizing self care and making time for yourself should never be seen as selfish or something that causes you guilt. Rather, it should be an important part of your day that brings you peace in a world full of stressors.
Written by Maneesha
Herbert, C., Meixner, F., Wiebking, C., & Gilg, V. (2020). Regular Physical Activity, Short-Term Exercise, Mental Health, and Well-Being Among University Students: The Results of an Online and a Laboratory Study. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 509. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00509
Kemeny, M. E. (2003). The Psychobiology of Stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(4), 124–129. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.01246
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Sumioka, H., Nakae, A., Kanai, R., & Ishiguro, H. (2013). Huggable communication medium decreases cortisol levels. Scientific reports, 3, 3034. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep03034