We all know that stress has an adverse effect on our health; it can raise blood pressure, cause weight gain, headaches, and digestive trouble, prevent restful sleep, and exacerbate symptoms of existing health conditions.
If relieving tension were as simple as flipping a switch, we’d have that switch in arm’s reach, 24/7. But stress-relief techniques aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. For a mover and shaker, meditation might seem less serene and more mind-numbing. For an easy-going homebody, a spin class might feel more frenetic than a frat party.
Finding a stress management plan that works for you shouldn’t cause extra anxiety. Rest assured that techniques exist for every personality—maybe the right one for you is here:
The very idea of sitting still and breathing deeply makes your blood pressure rocket. Instead, consider an active, aerobic exercise like running or dancing. If you’d rather escape the sound of your own thoughts for an hour, perhaps a martial arts class will work: Tai chi is low-impact, easy on the joints, and increases flexibility while decreasing stress. For the chill-out factor of meditation coupled with constant motion to keep things interesting, the Mayo Clinic suggests yoga as an excellent stress management tool.
You’re a nurturer—which is wonderful, but it means that you’re carrying your own stress and everyone else’s, too. For you, a solitary, tranquil activity might be best. Meditation is not only relaxing—some studies suggest that practicing daily can actually alter your neural pathways and better enable you to process stress.² A quiet walk in the woods or a low-impact outdoor activity like gardening will also give you the break you need and allow you to focus on yourself.
If you’re a natural problem-solver, it stresses you out just to know you’re not managing your stress better. You’d be wise to get some aerobic exercise in your daily routine for maintenance, but adding bigger changes to your diet will make a greater impact. Eating swiss chard, for example, will increase your intake of natural magnesium, which can help balance cortisol—the “stress hormone.” According to The Food Network, omega-3 fats in fish like salmon, and small portions of chocolate, can manage adrenaline and stress, too. Green veggies like broccoli and asparagus are essential—they contain healthy doses of folic acid, which has been shown to optimize cognitive functions.
As any introvert knows, there’s nothing as stressful as prolonged time with a crowd, with no chance to recharge. A great stress management solution is to schedule time to be completely peaceful. Find a time that you can be unreachable, except in case of emergencies. Turn off your phone. Put on your away message. Put it on your calendar if you need to, and stick to it. Consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to completely drown out any stimulation from the outside world. Then just breathe.