Feeling stressed? If so, you might be among the 55% of American adults who report feeling “a lot of stress” daily, according to the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report. These numbers mean that over half of American adults experience chronic, daily stress, and the health risks that go with it. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, headaches, and insomnia are just a few of the physical health risks caused by stress. There are also emotional health risks: anxiety, depression, and irritability, to name a few. And since the emergence of Covid-19 in early 2020, health care professionals are seeing a spike in anxiety and depression, caused by stress, among adult patients. Chronic stress and its symptoms can be treated medically, and those experiencing serious stress-related physical and/or emotional problems are advised to talk to their doctor as soon as possible. For those hoping to keep their stress from getting that far, today we’ll be looking at four changes adults can make in their lives to reduce the health effects of chronic stress.
Slow Down Your Mind
One of the most common complaints from those who suffer from stress is the inability to quiet their minds. There are many coping skills to address this issue, but what happens when the mind won’t slow down enough to learn one of them? A common way to address this problem is by using CBD products to quiet the mind for long enough periods to learn coping skills such as yoga or meditation. According to gotflora.com, CBD is cannabidiol, a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike THC, the compound found in these plants that creates a “high”, CBD is nonintoxicating. There’s a lot of science behind how CBD products help the body manage stress, but a simple explanation is that CBD helps prevents overstimulation of the body’s CB1 receptors, by boosting the body’s production of endocannabinoids. What is an endocannabinoid? It’s a molecule in the body that helps the endocannabinoid system perform its role in stress and mood processes, among other things.
Put Away Screens
But even the most powerful relaxation techniques and the very best CBD products won’t do any good if the mind is still stressed out from being fed a constant barrage of information. And in this era of smartphones, laptops, and countless other ways to stay connected, that’s exactly what the mind is facing - a constant stream of politics, worldwide health crises, armed conflicts here and abroad, and more.
While it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, it’s equally important to give the mind a break to process the information and the thoughts and emotions that come with it. An easy way to “unplug” every day is by an hour or two before bedtime, turning off TVs, laptops, cell phones, and any other device that brings news and information from the outside world. This means literally turning them off, not just putting phones on silent or TVs on mute. This gives the mind time to “quiet down” before bed, leading to better sleep.
Eat Well and Rest
When the distractions of the outside world are set aside, it carves out time for self-care, another important aspect of reducing stress. For example, with a few hours set aside each evening for self-care, there’s time to prepare meals, eat with friends and loved ones, and de-stress before bed. WebMD includes rest and eating right in their top ten tips for managing stress, and talks about how eating healthy and getting enough sleep helps the body fight some physical symptoms of stress.
We just talked about how putting away screens can lead to better rest at night, but WebMD says that rest doesn’t just mean creating better sleep routines and getting enough hours of sleep each night, although those two habits hold a huge role. Rest also means learning to do things that rest the mind. Some of their suggestions include learning yoga or meditation, spending time in nature, or reading for pleasure: work emails don’t count. These types of restful activities are much easier to focus on when the temptation to check in with the outside world is put aside. Hence “unplugging” for a set amount of time each day.
Talk It Out
When given time to rest the mind, many people report that when they return their attention to the outside world, they’re better able to identify and cope with their stressors. This makes sense, as the American Heart Association points out that people are better able to talk things out after a good night’s sleep or taking a walk. Talking it out doesn’t have to be done with another person either. While it's helpful to have a friendly, listening ear, many people find they’re better able to handle stress through journaling or list-making. Large, stressful projects are often less stressful when broken down into small, manageable to-do lists. And many people find that stressors with no easy or quick solution are more manageable when they’re brought into the light of day by jotting it all down in a notebook.
There are many other changes that can be useful in reducing the health effects of chronic stress: cultivating new hobbies, changing careers, spending more time with friends and family, volunteering, etc. There are as many changes that help reduce stress as there are stressed out people to try them. And while there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution for reducing stress, taken in order these four ideas can provide a blueprint for those who want to reduce and/or better manage their stress.
Slowing down the mind might look like CBD and mediation for one person and a tough workout for another. Putting away screens may look like turning devices off for one person and physically leaving these things at home and going somewhere for another person. The key is understanding these four basic concepts and finding individualized ways to make them work for an overall reduction in stress levels.