Not all stress is bad. After all, in certain situations, stress can be life-saving. Also known as our “fight-or-flight” response, stress exists as a mechanism to increase our ability to survive. However, most natural threats to our survival have been eliminated.
Usually, when a potential threat is gone, our bodies are supposed to return to a relaxed state. Yet, as modern-day life pushes an increasing number of stressors upon us, it can be challenging to relax. As a result, our internal alarm systems rarely turn off, resulting in a perpetual state of stress.
Focusing on yourself is crucial to reducing your level of stress. So summer is the perfect time to look inward and establish new, healthy, stress-reducing habits like these:
Eat Healthily – Food impacts how we feel physically and mentally. A poor diet leaves us feeling tired, sluggish, and slow. In addition, consuming foods high in sugar and fat increases the body's production of cortisol, the hormone responsible for feeling stressed. Summer offers many opportunities to visit farmer’s markets or your local grocery to create meals full of whole, in-season fruits and vegetables.
Exercise – Endorphins improve our sleep quality, elevate our mood, and even act as natural pain killers. And exercise is one of the best ways to encourage our body to produce more endorphins. In addition, summer affords us the time and weather to enjoy activities outdoors, which provides even more mood-boosting benefits. Spending time in nature, especially if you are lucky to be near bodies of water, has been scientifically proven to improve mood.
Meditate – For thousands of years, meditation has been used for relaxation and stress reduction. By providing a sense of calm and overall well-being, regular meditation helps you learn to stay focused and centered. However, meditation requires practice and regularity to be effective. Therefore, it is recommended to follow along with a program, such as the free Atom Meditation app, to help you learn how to control your mind.
Expand Your Mind – While meditation can help you clear your mind, reading is an exercise for your brain. Regular reading improves your sleep, literacy, memory, and concentration. Moreover, reading reduces stress. When we become overstressed, our minds tend to narrow and concentrate on even more negative thoughts. Reading allows our minds to expand and helps put our stressors into a larger context.