Feeling stressed out? Cortisol is the culprit. Don’t accuse your partner, boss, parents, colleagues, neighbors, and esp. the weather. The blame entirely lies on Adrenal Gland which produces Cortisol, a stress hormone. Before diving into easy techniques of stress management, let’s understand stress better.
When we are tensed, cortisol perceives it as a danger or a threat signal. It increases the supply of dispensable energy to the body to put us in fight or flight mode. What it does is pumps up the glucose levels in the blood (and supplies it to the large muscles of the body) at the expense of processes that are not required for immediate survival. At the same time, cortisol represses insulin production, to prevent glucose from being stored. A person under prolonged stress (and hence, continued high levels of cortisol) can become diabetic. The increased cortisol levels also lead to a hormonal imbalance and negatively affects the immune system.
Apart from these short term and long term bodily malfunctions, cortisol has a negative impact on our brain functioning and mental capacity. As an immediate effect we become stressed out, forgetful, confused and unfocused. Over a prolonged period, it’s detrimental to our brain development and memory.
But there’s an easy way out to summon the anti-cortisol squad and restore happiness. The happiness and feel good hormones that work counter the cortisol are Endorphin, Dopamine, Serotonin and also Oxytocin. Endorphins communicate with the receptors in the brain that suppress your perception of pain. Dopamine plays an important part in keeping you motivated. Serotonin promotes healthy social behavior, memory, and digestion, and a balanced appetite and sleep. These “stress management” hormones together regulate mood and trigger a positive feeling in the mind and body.
Check out this list of immediate stress busters that subdue the cortisol levels and arm you with the happiness hormones.
1. Listening To Music
This sounds simplistic, but it works wonders. Go for a cold shower or a drive while listening to soft, soothing music or any other type that you prefer. There are varying views about the kind of music that serves the best for this purpose; you can work that part out for yourself. Music has a definite link to our well being and emotions and can serve not just as a stress management tool by reducing the levels of stress hormones but impacts our physiological functions as well. It helps in decreasing the pulse rate, heart rate and blood pressure. Overall, you’d end up motivated and happier after a dose of music.
2. Going Outdoors
Soak up the sun (if it’s there), feel the breeze, look at the the blue (or cloudy) sky, and go for a long walk. In case, that’s not possible, go for a long drive with no destination (be safe though). Observe people, animals, plants, trees, ghosts, insects and just let it all sink in (However, report to the police in case you see any suspicious activity!) Take in everything that your surroundings have to offer to you. In return, don’t give away anything to the surroundings; no words, no actions, no garbage, surely you can breathe out as heavily as you fancy, but that’s it.
3. Eating Dark Chocolate, Milk Products And Nuts
Make a dark hot chocolate for your self, will ya? It’s not the sugar in hot chocolate but the cocoa which helps reduce anxiety by boosting endorphins and serotonin production. At the same time, it drives away stress-induced free radicals that are detrimental to your body. Munch on a handful of nuts and seeds for a similar result. Green vegetables and milk products are great stress busters when consumed on a regular basis. If any of you indulges in sweets or junk and thinks it is going to help, you’re sorely mistaken.
4. Talking To Someone
Grab your phone and call that one person that always leaves you in a better mood be it a parent, a second cousin, a friend or an ex-colleague (avoid calling your ex though). It’s even better if you can plan a meeting or a video call. It is bound to have a huge positive impact on our mood and attitude towards ourselves. We may crib about the lack of time to socialize with our people, however, in the longer run, having a robust social support system works wonders for our morale and inner-peace.
5. Engaging Yourself
Fancy Cooking? Then try out a recipe from a cookbook. Try doing activities which require complete attention and are mechanical in nature (spare creativity for a happier mood unless you are Charles Bukowski). My aspiration stress buster activities include include going for a game of laser tag or paintball. These mechanical activities keep you involved and help you release stress. Another alternative is gardening. As long as you’ve got the intention, you can think of something that interests you.
6. Playing With a Dog
All the dog lovers out there, fight off the stress by playing with a dog. Dogs help us overcome stress by increasing Oxytocin levels, the stress suppressing hormone, and decreasing Cortisol. Seemingly, dogs have a masters in stress management. Now, wouldn’t you consider gifting yourself a dog on your next birthday?
7. Writing Everything Down
Writing down about your feelings helps you understand your mind better and structure your thoughts. When you are struggling with stress or anxiety, maintaining a diary can help you get better of the situation. I cannot stress enough the effectiveness of writing your feelings down.
8. Pampering Yourself
There are several things you can do to pamper yourself like go for a spa, massages or even a hair makeover. Touch Therapy is one game changer when you are demotivated and stressed out. A good massage not just relaxes your muscles but also decreases the cortisol level in your body.
9. Planning For a Trip
Whether you end up going on this trip or not, making an extensive trip plan is going to help drive away the stress. Moreover, a good plan may give you enough motivation to drop everything that’s holding you back and instead go tripping to a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Plan a solo trip with perfect enthusiasm such that an excellent trip is what your life depends upon (Obviously, afterwards, you can invite people as well). Even make a shopping list of things you need to buy for the trip. Prima facie, this may seem to be a silly and irrelevant alternative for stress management, but don’t come running to me, later on, to thank me when it gets you going.
10. Running And Exercising
Running and exercising are instant mood boosters. You can go for Yoga, aerobic exercises or even Zumba classes. Physical activity increases the production of endorphins while lessening the impact of adrenaline and cortisol, hormones which promote feelings of stress and anxiety. To see continued results, make exercise a part of your daily routine.
Although, I didn’t mention Meditation as a stress management technique, it is definitely one of the most effective ways to calm down and feel energized. As starters, we lack patience to meditate esp. when we are feeling unnerved, and when we don’t get immediate results, we tend to lose interest. As an ending note, no one way is right, wrong or perfect. It’s best that we understand what activity relaxes us the most, and use it as our stress buster.
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Keep Reading. Chao!