It’s an inevitable reality of life. In fact, it can even be a positive thing—inspiring us and kicking our focus into high gear.
But not all stress is created equally. If you find yourself chronically stressed out and tense, it can become toxic and spell trouble for your health.
Elevated or extended stress essentially causes your body to get stuck in “fight or flight mode,” negatively impacting things like your immune system, mood, hormones, digestion, and just about everything in between.
But fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep toxic stress at bay, better cope with unavoidable stress, and prevent stress from chipping away at your health and well-being.
1. Turn it down: Scrolling social media and watching the news can be addicting. But it can also be a huge source of stress—reminding us of all the negativity in the world and encouraging the comparison of our lives to strangers online. Limiting the time you spend consuming the news and social media can be a major stress reliever.
2. Stay present: While planning and setting goals are great, the present moment is all we can control. If you find yourself worrying about the future, take a deep breath, and practice re-centering yourself in the present moment.
3. Set boundaries: Before potentially overcommitting and saying “yes” to that invitation, that project at work, or volunteering at that event, check in with yourself, and make sure it’s something you actually want to do. Saying “yes” out of obligation, rather than actual desire, can lead to resentment, burnout, and—you guessed it—a whole lot of toxic stress.
4. Get moving: Your body physically holds onto stress and tension. Moving your body—whether you’re running, hiking, dancing, lifting weights, or just gently stretching—can help move that stress out of your body.
5. Practice surrendering: It’s easy to spend a ton of time and energy worrying over things that are entirely out of our control. Practice focusing only on the things that you can control (like your own actions, reactions, and thoughts), and let go of the rest.
6. Adopt an attitude of gratitude: Take a few moments each day to intentionally find at least 3 things you’re grateful for. Spending a little time meditating on thoughts of gratitude can help train your subconscious to look for the positive.
7. Seek sunshine: Getting some direct sunlight can significantly boost your vitamin D levels and elevate your mood.
8. Write it down: Keeping track of your never-ending to-do list, fretting about the future, and stewing on the past can become highly toxic. It may be helpful to break out a journal or notepad, organize your to-do’s, and brain-dump all your worries and concerns. That way, they’re on paper and not consuming your thoughts.
While these simple steps are easy to do, they’re just as easy not to do. So it’s important to remember that taking the time to be proactive and intentional can go a long way in preventing stress levels from tipping the scales and reaching unhealthy, toxic levels.
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