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Reduce your daily stress by doing these 4 things, from an expert mind and body

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Sleep disturbances, appetite changes, social withdrawal, high blood pressure and digestive problems. These are just some of the impacts chronic stress can have on our health and behavior, according to Kiffer Card, assistant professor of social behavior and mental health at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada.

“Chronic stress is inexorable,” Card said Newsweek. “The body is constantly on high alert, leading to prolonged exposure to stress hormones” that increase heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels.

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Whether the stressor is work, money, relationships, or a serious illness, the problem is widespread. In a survey of more than 3,000 US adults for the American Psychological Association in 2022, 76% said they had experienced stress-induced health problems in the previous four weeks. The most common problems were headache, fatigue, feeling nervous or anxious, and feeling depressed or sad.

Even more alarming, more than a quarter of adults reported that “they’re so stressed out most days that they can’t function.” For those under 35, the figure rose to 46%.

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What can we do to reduce stress in our lives? Newsweek sought advice from experts.

Stock image of a stressed woman at her desk. Experts advise being realistic about how long tasks will take, and being careful not to overcommit.ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS

Set boundaries with stressors

“Prioritize commitments that align with your goals and values. Protect your leisure time and recovery time with the same level of dedication as your work time,” said Nichole Barta, associate professor of kinesiology and management of sports at Gonzaga University in Washington state. Newsweek.

“Recovery and downtime are essential to maintaining a sustainable level of productivity in all aspects of your life.

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“Be realistic about how long tasks take and avoid overcommitting yourself. Consider factors such as travel time and transition periods when scheduling appointments and meetings. By giving yourself enough time to complete tasks without feeling rushed, you can avoid the stress that comes with a lack of time.”

Take some time to rest and recover

Turning off our brains is essential, added Barta.

“Just as our bodies have physical limitations, so do our minds when it comes to handling cognitive and emotional workloads. Scheduling breaks throughout the day can help you recharge and gather the resources you need to sustain focus and motivation. Going too long without breaks can put you on the path to burnout,” she said.

Stock image of a woman relaxing. Breaks from work help you recharge and prevent burnout.ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS

Brittany Harker Martin, an associate professor researching the relationship between art, the brain and cognition at the University of Calgary in Canada, recommended taking a look at your laptop and cellphone settings.

“You have the power to manage pop-ups, cookies and other tech triggers that frequently interrupt your thoughts,” he said Newsweek.

“Take the time to opt out of unwanted settings, and don’t get sucked into skipping options because it’s easier. Cookie notifications, for example, are designed to stop you from doing what you want so you “allow everyone” to go on it. Pause to review your cookie settings and only allow what makes you feel comfortable. You might be shocked to see what you’ve allowed so far.”

Hobbies involving your hands are also a great way to relax, according to Martin.

“Research shows that activities that require hand-eye coordination, such as painting, crocheting or drawing, for about 15 to 20 minutes can facilitate a mental shift into healthy mental states. Set the timer to do something that makes you work hands and eyes together from screens, like coloring books or puzzles, can help you practice mind shifting so you feel more empowered,” she said.

Meet friends

Spending time with friends and family is essential. “Social relationships help us protect ourselves from the effects of stress”, said card.

“Our friends and family can provide us with emotional support and advice in coping with our situations and environments. They can encourage us to lead healthier lifestyles. They can support us through difficult but necessary changes. The mere presence of another person in our lives can reduce our stress response and promote better physiological functioning.”

That’s because our brains have evolved to rely on social interaction, so missing it can make you feel worse.

Stock image of a group of friends. “Social relationships help protect us from the effects of stress,” one expert told Newsweek.ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS

“Having a healthy social world is essential for brain health: social connections are at the root of what it means to be a human being. Giving priority to the development of healthy social relationships is fundamental”, said card.

Healthy relationships are key. “Much of our stress comes from relationships, so knowing which people in your life help you thrive and which people drain you is crucial to your well-being. Everyone should think carefully about their social lives as they are probably more important than any other domain .”

Stay active

“Physical activity stimulates the production and release of endorphins”, said card. He also reduces stress hormones. Increases self-confidence and self-efficacy. In recent years, study after study has shown that much of our poor physical health comes from our unnaturally sedentary lifestyles. Our bodies don’t work if we don’t use them.”

More daily tips

Theresa Larkin, an associate professor of stress science at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, said Newsweek that stress could also be kept at bay with “meditation and mindfulness; cognitive behavioral therapy with a psychologist…time in nature; exercise, good diet, and good sleep.”

Time in nature is also on the list of ‘quick wins’ suggested by Paul Levy, senior lecturer in innovation management at the University of Brighton in the UK

“First, only check your emails and texts three times a day with a nice cup of tea, and turn off all notifications and alarms for at least a few hours of the day,” he said. Newsweek.

“Put protections on at certain times of the day and turn off your phone. Just because your phone rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it all the time. And it’s better to resolve the conflict face-to-face than through furious text conversations,” she said.

She added: “Get some regular exercise even if it’s just for a few minutes and clear your head.

“Get out in nature if you can, even if it’s just a walk in the local park because there’s more than enough evidence that this reduces stress.”

Another important tactic is to “make money management easier and not stick your head in the sand for financial worries.”

Finally, Levy said, “Make a list of all the things that irritate you. Making a few simple changes in your life can reduce the irritation and calm you down. What triggers you? What makes you lose your mind? How can you avoid these triggers?” in the first place?”

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