woman outside looking calm

In today’s face paced culture, we’re all a little stressed. From working overtime to the high cost of living, 24/7 news coverage, and toxic relationships–sometimes it seems like we’re surrounded by stress on all sides.

Learning to manage your stress has never been more important or more challenging and many wonder where to even start. And how do you find strategies that will actually help?

Here are 5 of the most effective ways to reduce your stress so you can be more zen!

1. Monitor Your Thoughts

We often don’t realize the role that our thinking plays in contributing to our stress but certain kinds of thought patterns can certainly make your stress load even heavier to bear.

Patterns like catastrophizing or perfectionism play a big role in increasing stress. It’s hard enough if you work 60 hours a week but if you’re also telling yourself that no one else is going to hire you and you’re just stuck here, your stress goes from bad to worse.

Pay attention to how you think about your stress. Research has shown that those people who view their stress as a challenge they can overcome experience fewer negative effects of stress.

2. Exercise & Eat Right

When you are pressed for time, getting your exercise in may be at the back of your mind and what you eat is more likely to come from a drive thru. But research consistently tells us that how we treat our bodies will impact our mental well being.

Finding ways to move, even if that means exercises you can do at your desk, can help reduce tension and protect against the negative impacts of stress. Focusing on foods like green leafy veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and Omega 3s, while less convenient than your drive thru habit, give your brain the nutrients it needs to win against your stress.

3. Get Your Sleep

Stress often impacts how we sleep. If you work a lot, you may find yourself sacrificing sleep in order to have some kind of life outside of work. If you are struggling with toxic relationships or life insecurity, it can make it difficult to get a good night’s rest.

Sleep is an important factor in managing your stress. Without it, we are more susceptible to emotional overwhelm, difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions, and you’re more likely to get sick more often.

Make sleep a priority and practice good sleep hygiene to reduce your stress.

4. Reach Out for Support

When we are stressed out, our body responds by releasing stress hormones. Think cortisol. Those chemicals are responsible for all of the negative effects that stress can take on your body: muscle tension, increased risk of heart attack, etc…

But the interesting thing that researchers have found about stress is that reaching out for support (as well as offering support to others) increases our production of a hormone called Oxytocin, which can help protect you against the negative effects of stress.

So call a friend and talk. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or do small acts of kindness for a stranger. It actually can help reduce your stress!

5. Be Mindful

A regular mindfulness practice can really benefit your mental well being and reduce stress. Mindfulness teaches you how to have more control over your thought life– how to choose which thoughts you pay attention to and how to let go of thoughts that add more stress. It can help you say goodbye to perfectionism and negative self talk.

Mindfulness helps reduce the intensity of your stress response and it’s easy to add to your day. Many start with a guided exercise you can find in a free app and if you are brand new to the practice, this can be a helpful strategy.

Finding ways to reduce your stress is a must. These are a few of the strategies that can give you the biggest return on your effort. Try them out and see what works for you!