Stress is a natural part of life and unfortunately something we can’t avoid. The fact is, 70% of adults in the United States say they feel stressed or anxious every day. That, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a lot of stress and anxiety floating around, and that’s not good.
Stress can cause you to be less productive and more irritable. It can lead to overeating and weight gain, depression, trouble sleeping, and other side effects you can do without. So what can you do?
You can use a few of these 12 strategies to prevent everyday stress buildup. Everyday stressors won’t hit you as hard when you take preventative measures. Like carrying an umbrella in case it rains, think of these habits are insurance against stress buildup.
Stress will hit you harder if you’re chronically sleep-deprived. Loss of sleep can affect your motivation, behavior, health, wellbeing, and every single facet of your life. How do you know how much sleep you need? You can conduct your own sleep study to learn how much sleep you need to perform at your best.
HOW TO DO IT: Take your best guess or use the common 8-hour sleep goal as your starting point. For a week, go to bed 10 minutes earlier and see if you naturally wake up before your alarm. If you don’t feel rested, add a few more minutes and repeat this process until you wake up feeling refreshed.
- Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 16 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
- 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
- 65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours
Meditation helps us navigate life with fewer hiccups and stress. If you’re new to meditation, try it with a friend or a group to improve your odds of sticking to it long enough to feel the benefits. Like the CEOs, athletes, and others with busy lives who have come to depend on it, you too may find meditation invaluable.
Try the Vurb Meditation program, which combines a weekly meditation class with other group coaching services for better emotional health.
Your go-to way to decompress after a long day at work may be watching TV, but reading is a much healthier way to turn the page on stress. Reading not only calms the mind and relaxes the body, but it can also help prevent conditions caused by stress such as anxiety and insomnia. Reading before bed also gives you a better night’s sleep, something everyone can benefit from!
4. Do your self-care.
Set aside time each day for some personal care. Try taking a bath with Epsom salts to soothe your muscles, making yourself a cup of calming tea, taking extra time for your skincare routine, or doing some gentle yoga before bed. Whatever it may be that you enjoy as a destresser, doing something daily will help prevent stress buildup much like your daily oral care helps to prevent plaque buildup.
5. Confront the issue.
Ongoing problems need ongoing support. Chronic stressors like living with financial uncertainties, caring for a loved one, or managing a chronic health condition of your own, are inherently stressful and can have a huge impact on your quality of life. When not addressed, they can cause physiological and mental health problems that just encourage stress to stick around. Get help and create a plan to solve your problem. Create a plan to move from financial uncertainty to financial freedom, see if other family members can share the responsibilities of caring for loved ones, and find support groups and programs that offer some assistance. Your troubles won’t feel so stressful if you know you’re working to resolve them or you’re getting help along the way.
6. Take stress supplements.
Did you know that low Vitamin D levels have been linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress? After my doctor, a naturopathic MD, recommended 5,000 IU of Vitamin D a day as part of my holistic thyroid treatment, I did some digging and learned about a slew of other supplements that help reduce stress. Consider Magnesium, Ashwagandha, valerian root, B12, and other stress supplements as one of your stress prevention aids.
Getting a workout isn’t just good for the body, it also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals! Who doesn’t want that? Exercising regularly helps you sleep better and will create a buffer against stress and anxiety. Cardio exercises and any activity that includes music, such as dancing, are especially joy-inducing.
8. Set boundaries.
Maybe your to-do list is overwhelming because you’re too focused on helping others. In that case, setting boundaries will help and these are some of the ways you can do it:
- Commit to a fraction of what is asked. If your brother who has a habit of forgetting to repay loans wants to borrow $100, give him a smaller amount that you wouldn’t mind losing if he never paid you back. Instead of agreeing to volunteer at the church bazaar for 5 hours, as asked, commit to 3 only.
- Give yourself time to say no. Before you commit to invitations, consider whether you can spare the time.
- Give something else. Instead of giving your time, consider giving money or vice versa.
Supporting others is beneficial in itself; setting boundaries will let you support them in a way that YOU are able to without your health and wellbeing at risk.
9. Surround yourself with plants and flowers.
An overwhelming amount of the stress we face is work-related. Until you can change roles, your employer or start your own business, try to minimize work-related stress right there in the office. By adding a plant (or 2) to your work area, you can! Indoor plants such as basil plants, snake plants, English Ivy, Chrysanthemum, and fragrant flowers create a healthy, breathable environment that helps to repel stress.
10. Change Your Mindset.
Mindset plays a significant role in how we respond to life’s daily stressors. Negative thinking can exaggerate our perceived shortcomings and make situations harder to process. Our mindset can make us more (or less) reactive. When we change our expectations, we won’t be let down as much. Pay attention to how you respond to stressful situations and interactions. Try being more positive and forgiving when things don’t go as planned.
11. Laugh More.
Laughter can be a stress repellent, and that’s no joke. Here are some ways you can lighten up and bring more laughter into your everyday life:
- Hang out with the easy-going crew
- Go to comedy clubs and watch more stand-ups and comedies on TV
- Subscribe to a joke a day
- Wear the lighthearted costume of the season (the Witch’s Hat for Thanksgiving and the Santa hat at Christmas time)
- Play with kids
- Use a trampoline, buy some old-school in-line skates
- Don’t take yourself (or the world) so seriously, and
- Look for humor all around you.
12. Write things down.
From the important things you need to handle each day to your worries, writing them down is one way to keep stress at arm’s length. Putting the important things you need to do on the calendar, increases the chances you’ll do it, and writing down your worries creates a record of what you need to work on. Something else to jot down is the things you’re grateful for. Gratitude can prevent stress buildup because it shifts your focus and your thoughts to what’s positive in your life.
Most people think of stress as something that just happens to them. They think that traffic or a poor work performance review is what caused them to get stressed. But when two people handle the same event differently, you have to ask yourself how they’re able to do that. And how can you be more like them?
One answer is by habitually using strategies like these. When you do, you too can become someone who is less affected by everyday stress.
Christine is a Life Strategist and Emotional Health Coach living in Los Angeles. She's big on meditation and believes in systems and routines, and in personalizing everything you do to help you get where you want to be.