Stress takes its toll on our bodies. It affects us physically, depletes us emotionally and drains us of our ability to focus and be productive. In fact, many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, depression and anxiety, are caused or made worse by stress.1 When the going gets tough, try these strategies to persevere.
Get your z’s
Sleep is often the first thing to go when we’re too busy, but a rested body manages stress better. Limit caffeine, wind down with a relaxing bedtime routine and aim for at least seven hours of shut‑eye a night.
Exercise releases endorphins (the “feel‑good” chemicals) and is one of the best stress relievers around. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of activity a week, but even brief periods of exercise, such as a 10‑minute walk, can help relieve anxiety.
Laugh it off
They say laughter is the best medicine – and it certainly has tension‑relieving powers. A hearty laugh relaxes muscles, lowers stress hormones and releases mood‑boosting endorphins. Finding humour in a difficult situation can also help improve your outlook. Join co‑workers for a coffee break, frolic with a pet or simply watch a funny TV show.
Instead of reaching for sugary snacks when things get hectic, try some proven calming foods. Berries are packed with vitamin C, which has been found to reduce stress. Oatmeal and other complex carbohydrates cause your brain to produce soothing serotonin. And cashews are a great source of zinc, which can help combat anxiety and depression.
When you have a lot to do, you may be tempted to power through. But short, frequent breaks actually enhance productivity by making you feel clearer, more creative and more focused. Try going for a stroll at lunch or doing some stretches at your desk.
Practising gratitude helps you focus on the positive things in life. Even in challenging times, write down three things you’re thankful for every day – it may surprise you how good something so simple can feel.
Make a change
If you can’t eliminate a stressor, try to change how you react to it. Feeling rushed to get dinner on the table? Look into a healthy meal delivery service. Stuck in traffic? Sing along to the radio or listen to an audiobook.
Just say no
Heaping tasks onto an already full plate will only add to your stress. When we say yes to everyone, we end up saying no to our own well‑being. Practise setting boundaries with a simple “Sorry, I can’t take that on right now” – no explanation needed.
Our brains spend a lot of time focusing on the past or the future. But zeroing in on the here and now makes it impossible for thoughts like worry or regret to creep in. Try a guided meditation, or just work on being present while doing everyday activities. Focus on the taste and texture of the food you eat, the feeling of the warm water while washing dishes or the sound of the wind in the trees.
By finding ways to unwind, you can do a lot to improve your outlook and your long‑term health. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes. Then, experiment with different techniques to see what works for you.
 www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_adults_en.pdf; www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/