It's not enough to know how to calm down once stress strikes. It's also important to maintain a lifestyle that makes stress less effective on our mental health.

Stress is obviously a part of life. More so now, it seems, than it ever has been in the past. And we all have learned ways to manage it when it rears its ugly head. But just managing the symptoms is not good for long-term change. It’s more sustainable to lessen how much of it gets into our lives in the first place.

It’s Not All Bad

Now, before we label stress the bad guy, let me just put it out there that there are good and bad kinds, as you’ll hear in the video below. It’s the bad kind, or more specifically, the long-term stressors that can really do a number on your system. Check out this chart. It reminds us that not being stressed enough can make us inactive. But too much of it can put us in the red zone.

Illustrated infographic showing a stress curve. Green on the left arks in the middle, which is yellow and orange, on the right the ark comes back down in red. Various words and arrows are indicating what effects each section has on our lives.

Hand drawing curve graph with relation between performance and stress level with different stages, from underload to overload and burnout. The trick is to find that perfect balance and stay there, as much as humanly possible.

Potential Effects Of Being Chronically Stressed

It’s great to have tools in your tool bag for when stress does surface. Because it’s inevitable this day and age that it will. But there are changes we can make to our lifestyles that can drastically lessen the amount of it we feel daily.

Being chronically stressed can lead to major health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you feel constantly stressed, your body will stay in fight-or-flight mode. That means your cortisol and adrenaline levels stay elevated, and your heartrate and blood pressure don’t regulate themselves. Long-term exposure to that can seriously mess up your body’s processes.

The effect can lead to many health issues, including anxiety and depression. Even weight gain, headaches and sleep problems are linked to it. As well as digestive problems and muscle pain. Not to mention more serious issues like heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.

Here’s a quick video that sums up the effects of the body from being chronically stressed. Listen to how much of our lives are affected by it. The body struggles to heal as quickly and stress even makes us age faster.

Relationships Might Play A Part

There are so many elements in our lives that contribute to us being stressed. Work demands, family life, being stuck in traffic with unsafe drivers. Plus the technology that makes us constantly connected to social media and has the world assuming we should be available 24/7.

Another possible source is the dynamics you have with the people in your close circles. Have you ever been in a bad relationship and thought there was something wrong with YOU that required serious remedies like medication or therapy? Only to have that relationship end and suddenly be “cured”?

Happens all the time. I’m not at all advocating for no therapy or to just ditch your meds. Just saying you should take a look at the relationships in your life as well as lifestyle habits you’ve become accustomed to. Maybe there are things that need to change.

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7 Stress-Reducing Lifestyle Changes To Consider

  • 1. Get Enough Sleep

    A young dark-haired man is sleeping in bed. A lamp is turned on behind him on the nightstand and the light from the window is shining on his face.

    Peaceful young man sleeping in a comfortable bed alone at home, enjoying his orthopedic mattress and cozy pillow.

    It cannot be understated how important sleep is for stress management. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. That way your body can anticipate and make the most of the time you’ve set aside for repose. And ditch those electronics in the bedroom for the best sleep results.

  • 2. Practice Mindfulness

    Senior woman meditating in lotus position at home, sitting on the floor in navy blue fitness clothing. She is sitting in front of a green modern sofa.

    Senior woman meditating in lotus position at home, sitting on the floor in fitness clothing. Meditation is just one way to practice mindfulness and reduce stress.

    One of the easiest lifestyle changes you can make for less stress is to learn how to practice mindfulness. This doesn’t necessarily mean setting aside 20 minutes every day to meditate. Although that would be amazing. Mindfulness just means being present in the moment.

    Whether that means putting the phone away when you’re eating so you can focus on the tastes and textures of the food, or taking a moment to notice the sights and smells around you. Mindfulness brings you into the present moment and out of your stress.

  • 3. Eat Well

    Close up of a bowl of fresh veggies being held by a woman in a white crop top. She is holding a fork with food on it.

    Shot of fitness woman eating a healthy poke bowl in the kitchen at home. Healthy eating can not only improve your physical health, but your mental health as well.

    A good diet is an essential element for keeping your body and mind performing at their best. And this helps to manage the daily stress we all experience. Try to avoid processed foods as much as you can. and eat plenty of greens and whole grains to get the most health benefits. If you are a meat-eater, opt for the leanest proteins you can.

  • 4. Set Boundaries

    Young blonde woman in an ecru sweater is holding her hands up in a T formation, as if to say "time out".

    Whether you need a permanent split from someone toxic, or just a short time out with your partner, setting boundaries is an essential way to look out for your mental health.

    You know that phrase “location, location, location”? Well that level of importance should be stressed on “boundaries, boundaries, boundaries”. While it might be really challenging to say no when people ask you to do things, it’s a MUST if you are stretched thin and not able to prioritize your self-care. There’s a reason people-pleasers are exhausted all the time.

  • 5. Time Management

    Young brown-hair man with facial hair is wearing a white shirt and patterned tie and juggling multiple analog alarm clocks.

    This young businessman is juggling a lot of things at work. Fortunately, he has good time management skills.

    With everything we tend to pack on our plates, being able to juggle it all is vital. Think about it, if you start the day later than you need to get everything on your list done, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

    If you always feel stressed about your packed schedule, maybe waking up ten or fifteen minutes earlier can make a difference in the stress levels you have throughout the day.

  • 6. Get Picky About Your Circle

    Group of diverse friends standing in a huddle against a blue sky. Multi-racial friends standing together arms around each other and smiling while looking down at the camera.

    It doesn’t matter if you have one close friend or 100. What matters is that they are emotionally healthy people that care about being mentally healthy.

    They say the people closest to you shape who you become. If your circle of friends includes people who are chronically negative, its going to have an effect on your stress levels. So surround yourself with people who elevate your mood and you’ll have an easier time handling stress.

    And if there is someone in your life who does bring constant stress to you, you might want to seriously examine that relationship. Is it worth the long-term effects it’s having on you?

  • 7. Get A Pet

    A happy multiracial couple scratching their pet Golden Retriever, sitting on floor at home.

    Whether it be a cat, dog, guinea pig or something else, having a pet can instantly improve your mental health and reduces levels of stress.

    Studies have shown that interacting with animals lowers cortisol. That’s a stress-related hormone. Having a pet also boosts your mood and lowers your blood pressure. So maybe the next time you drive by an animal shelter, just take a look. Do you research on what breed matches your lifestyle and both your lives will improve.

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