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How to Reduce Stress to Improve Quality of Life

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, MA, NCC 

You don’t need to look too far in today’s society to see people who are worn out, fatigued, and stressed. Chances are, you yourself have had some enjoyable times, but you have likely also known your own fair share of stress. It doesn’t take much to ask why many like yourself experience stress. The world is currently in a pandemic, unemployment is at an all-time high, balancing family life with career pursuits requires a lot, relational struggles and issues may be mounting and there’s always a season where people are dying, which makes loss a very real issue many currently must face.

Stress may not be totally inescapable, but it surely can be managed. Stress reduction should be the order of the day for each and every person. There is so much more power in working from a place of peace and calm than working from a place of stress, anxiety and chaos. It may require effort and diligence, but the benefit of working to stay at peace during turmoil has wonderful implications to your mind, body and soul. Below we discuss some ways you can keep your stress levels down: 

  1. Exercise

Your body has certain mechanisms that react to stress. One such one is to produce a hormone called cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”. The more cortisol your body produces, the more your chances for illness and cardiovascular disease set in. Exercising helps to bring the levels of cortisol in your body down while increasing the “feel good hormone” – endorphins. The result is a better feeling all around. Exercise will also help take your mind off the days proceedings which is a healthy way to escape. 

  1. Eating healthy

Taking care of your health during a period of stress is vital. Eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables will lower stress levels and enable the body to cope better with any trauma you may be experiencing. Many people resort to salty and sugary snacks during periods of high stress but we don’t recommend it. This is because they heighten stress levels and often times, come with a crash. Keeping a balanced diet instead, is the way to go. This will enhance your mood, improve your sleep and give you the energy you need for what’s ahead.

Below we offer some added guidance as it relates to diet when trying to reduce stress:

  • Limit Caffeine intake – Caffeine, which is a stimulant, may increase productivity in many persons. However, the downside to it is that caffeine also increases stress and anxiety. If you feel as if you are under an increased amount of stress, avoiding caffeinated drinks and beverages will help in the long run.
  • Limit Alcohol intake – Alcohol, like caffeine, is often a go to for many people who are stressed out and overwhelmed. However, countless studies and medical authorities have warned against this. Reason being, alcohol intake often leads to greater tolerance, which means you need more to feel good. Studies also show that once the mood boost of alcohol has worn off, anxiety and stress levels spike….leaving you feeling worse than before you took a drink. Severe health effects such as nausea dizziness, hypoglycemia and loss of memory associated with hangovers also are an added burden you don’t need in stressful times. 
  1. Journal

Therapists and other mental health personnel have long praised the act of journaling in helping with stress as well as many other mental health issues. You may journal things you are grateful for, your to-do lists, or your thoughts and feelings on a variety of issues that may be plaguing your mind and keeping you up at night. What’s more, journaling is a private practice – you are not obligated to show your therapist or anyone else, which gives the individual the opportunity to feel, think, and BE without having to filter themselves. 

  1. Deep Breathing and mindfulness

Deep breathing and taking a second to just be in our environment will help mitigate the effects of stress, one of which is very common – anxiety. Deep breathing helps you to center yourself, slow your heart rate, regularize your breathing and stop panic attacks right away. Increased mindfulness also helps to relieve stress. Try meditating, listening to rain sounds, ocean sounds, jazz music or a variety of other sounds you enjoy while taking a chance to stay in the “here and now” of things.

When all is said and done, we also recommend consulting a mental health expert if you find your stress levels are way too high and you are finding it extremely difficult to cope. We implore you to also seek help immediately if you or someone you know reports suicidal thought and behavior due to the hopelessness of whatever situation they may be in.

If you or someone you know is struggling to manage stress levels, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling in Chicago to start your journey to a healthier you today! 


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