39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 3

The greatest wealth is Health Unknown

Today’s article is part 3 of our 4 day series! Be sure to read all 4 posts on the 39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise!

Neurobiological Benefits of Exercise

One of the coolest things about exercise is how you can physically and chemically alter your brain. You indirectly transform it to become a better machine by submitting your body to a temporary state of stress. So not all stress is bad.

Your brain is the most complex organ in the body. As a species, it got us to where we are today, and who knows where it can take us in the future. It’s more than a mass of grey goo. It’s a complex organization of physical connections awash in a sea of neurochemicals. Exercise enhances the hardware of your organic computer. And then it supplies it with high octane fuel so that you can operate at a higher level.

19. Increases Resilience To Stress

Exercise is a great way to beat stress. I don’t want to beat that into the ground, those are pretty well known. But can the benefit stretch beyond just relieving stress? Recent research out of Princeton took a look at some of the less understood mechanisms of stress relief to tackle that question.

These scientists ran an experiment on mice that exercised and those that didn’t. What they saw was that exercise actually reorganizes the structure of the brain to react differently to a stressful situation. The second finding was noticing that the brain increased the release of a specific neurotransmitter when a stressful situation was encountered. The role of this neurotransmitter was to reduce the excitability – or firing – of neurons.

What’s the significance? It means that exercise helped reduce the level of anxiety when exposed to stress. A neuro-level coping mechanism used by the brain. Those who exercise are better able to deal with stressful situations in their day to day lives. The result is better health, better decisions, and more control throughout the day.

The research also has implications for treating those with anxiety disorders.

20. Increases Energy

I think we all feel a dip in physical and mental energy at different times of day. So what’s the best way to grab a second wind? It may actually be by getting your body moving.

It’s logical to think that exercise can leave you exhausted and drained. A study from the University of Georgia, however, looked at the effect of light to moderate exercise on energy levels. They found that low or medium impact activity could actually increase energy levels and reduce fatigue. This benefit was seen for sedentary adults that were considered healthy. Even more surprising, this was independent of current fitness levels of the individual.

21. Reduces Fatigue

Some of these energized feelings could be because of the dopamine and seratonin that get released in the brain. The lead author of the study suggested that this research that exercise may have a more direct effect on the central nervous system. A similar study at the University of South Carolina actually backs up this claim. At South Carolina they found that exercise actually ramps up the creation of new mitochondrial cells in the brain, which can help guard against mental fatigue.

22. Makes Your Brain Bigger

You might be amazed to learn that exercise literally makes your brain bigger!

Healthy but sedentary adults were used in a study to look at this effect of exercise. When put through an aerobic fitness program for 6 months, the researchers saw a significant increase in both white matter and grey matter in the brain. The control group, which only did stretching and toning over the same period of time, saw no increase in the volume of their brain.

23. Slows Down Brain Atrophy

Starting around age 30 our brains start to lose volume naturally. Most notably in the hippocampus. This can affect cognitive abilities, memory, and even spur the onset of dementia.

Research found that moderate exercise in healthy older adults helped them gain 1-2% volume in the hippocampus area. This would be the equivalent of reversing brain aging by about 2 years. Additionally, the researchers found that there were gains in spatial memory for this study.

Another study in 2013 saw a correlation between exercise habits and brain volume. Participants were adults between the ages of 18 to 45. After the scientists adjusted for factors such as age, gender, and brain volume they compared the results against each persons exercise habits. They found that the minutes of exercise per week correlated with the size of their hippocampus. The research shows that regular exercise may be able to protect against the brain’s natural shrinkage.

24. Increases the Birth of New Brain Cells

The process of growing new brain cells is called neurogenesis. Scientists recently identified a brain chemical called BDNF – that’s Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor for any science nerds – that promotes this process in our brains.

While the first studies were done in rats, researchers are beginning to look at the relationship between exercise and BDNF in human subjects. A review published in 2014, looked at 32 articles and tallied up the results. Overall, they saw short intense and chronic exercise elevated BDNF levels in humans.

This same studied also noted that results for exercise were different than normal physical activity. So taking a walk around the block may not generate increased BDNF to your brain. Future research should be able to tell us how intense activities need to be for increased BDNF.

This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website: http://thebrainflux.com/brain-benefits-of-exercise/
Stayed Tuned for Section 4 on Monday!

 

 

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39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 2

From the bitterness of disease man learns the sweetness of health Catalan Proverb

Today’s article is a continuation of yesterday’s post! Be sure to read all 4 posts on the 39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise!

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

You can’t talk about the brain without talking about psychology. Our moods, personalities, and motivations are what make us mentally unique. There are a number of things that can occur throughout the day that can affect our mental states. It’s constantly changing, and life is going to give you a fair share of stressful situations.

Exercise has the ability to restore positive feelings, make you resilient to stressful situations, and might even increase your happiness levels.

10. Exercise Alleviates Stress

This exercise benefit isn’t going to shock anyone. It’s a well known psychological benefit. Also one of the biggest reasons why people take up exercise. The science behind it is well documented, as well as it’s calming effect on a stressed mind. But how does a physically stressful activity on the body actually end up relieving stress?

It’s a bit of a puzzle, but the long-term benefits definitely compensate for the short-term stress. For starters, it releases neurochemicals into the brain. The big ones being endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are associated with better cognitive functioning, alertness, and elevated moods. In addition to dumping feel-good chemicals into your head, it also helps purge stress hormones from your body – cortisol and adrenaline.

From a psychological perspective, exercise also gives you a way to distract yourself from focusing on daily stressors. This could be from your boss, a task at work, or any number of personal problems. When the mind has nothing else to focus on, it will drift. Many people can fixate on immediate issues, specific stressful problems, or strong emotional feelings. So exercise can simply give you an immediate task to focus your energy on.

So while this benefit of exercise won’t come as a surprise to you, it’s still one of the best, time-tested reasons to get out there and get moving. As we’ll explore in other articles, stress is one of the biggest enemies of efficient brain operation. And exercise is an efficient stress management technique.

11. Gives You Emotional Resilience

Stress also affects your emotional state. Strong emotions can be an unfortunate side effect of stressful events.

One study separated participants between participants between those who exercised regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups were equal in mood before the experiment. Then they were exposed to a stressful event. They observed that the physically fit group actually had smaller declines in positive mood than their more sedentary counterparts.

It seems that people who get regular exercise are able to maintain a more positive attitude – and emotional outlook – after something stressful occurs. This gives exercisers yet another level of protection from the day to day stress that happens to all of us.

12. Reduces Anxiety

A meta-analysis published in 1995 had researchers take a look at 40 studies to measure the effects of exercise on anxiety. In analyzing several different study types, they found that exercise had a low to moderate effect on reducing anxiety levels. They also noted that adults who led a more stressful lifestyle benefited most from the exercise. So for those that are feeling anxious from stress will benefit even more from exercise than someone who isn’t.

13. Increases Pain Tolerance

It has been pretty well documented that intense exercise can dull pain in the short term. Your body releases endorphins and other chemicals during and shortly after exercise that will decrease pain in the body.

But it’s more than just short term. Exercise could be the key for those of you looking to increase your mental grit. A small study published in 2014 from Australia showed that participants who completed a six-week aerobic exercise program increased their tolerance for pain. It wasn’t that they felt less pain. In fact, researchers noted that participants were feeling pain at the same levels as before. The change was actually a mental one. They were able to withstand pain at higher levels after they had completed the exercise regimen.

14. Fights Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental conditions that affect people worldwide. An estimated 350 million according to the World Health Organization. Even scarier is the fact that depression is on the rise. It is set to be the 2nd biggest medical condition by 2020.

A large meta-analysis analyzed the effect of exercise on alleviating symptoms of depression. Two things were found from the review. They found positive results from a significant and moderate relief from depression. The second result came from the comparison of exercise to other forms of psychological therapy or drugs. Exercise was found to be just as effective as the other alternatives.

Pretty important news for a nation that has a slight addiction to pills and prescriptions. People who may be looking for other, more cost-effective ways to help fight depression, regular exercise could hold promise.

15. Prevents Depression

Preventing depression is even more important than fighting it. I won’t use a cliche quote referencing ounces and pounds here. But let’s agree prevention is far better than curing. Research tells us exercise helps the symptoms of depression, but scientists didn’t understand how. At least until recently.

In a study published in September 2014, researchers found a mechanism that helped explain the puzzle. And not just fight it, but help prevent the symptoms of depression.

The study gets pretty technical, but here are the key points. During stressful situations, there’s a harmful substance that builds up in the blood. The blood then carries that substance to the brain. Scientists used genetically modified mice to help produce a certain protein. A protein which helps break down and remove the harmful substance in the blood.

Normal mice and the mice with the protein were then exposed to multiple stressful situations. Scientists saw the normal mice begin to express depressive behaviors, while the genetically modified mice acted normally.

So here’s where the rubber hits the road. This same protein can be produced by skeletal muscle (both in mice and humans) through physical activity. The more physical activity you do, the more protein produced. So by doing regular exercise, you build up the amount of protein in your system. When stress strikes, the protein eliminates the harmful substance and shields your brain from symptoms of depression.

16. Improves Your Mood

Exercise causes the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. This part you know. So I want to share some interesting information you may not be familiar with.

Researchers took a look at how people deal with their bad moods. They identified a total of 32 different methods that people reported using. They then analyzed which methods were most effective at regulating their bad moods. After all the data was analyzed, exercise emerged as the most effective method at changing a bad mood. If you’re curious, the methods coming in second and third were music and social interaction.

17. Improves Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is important if we want to live a happy life. Low self-esteem creates stress, depression, and anxiety. Also, it can negatively impact our job and academic performance.  If gone unchecked it can also cause a number of other unhealthy behaviors.

Exercise has been shown to affect self-esteem positively in all ages. From your development as a child up until the twilight years. A large quantitative review of 113 studies reported finding a change in self-esteem through exercise. In fact, the more physically fit one was, the higher one’s self-esteem. One final result they reported was that the type of exercise program could also affect the level of self-esteem.

So if you’re looking to boost your self-esteem, go hit that pavement, pool, or treadmill.

18. Makes You Happier

Moods come and go. They are temporary by nature. But can exercise have an effect on happiness in the long term?

An important question, but also a difficult one. I thought there would be tons of information on the subject, but it’s surprisingly sparse. There are various definitions of happiness and different ways to measure it. And happiness can mean different things for different people. Despite these problems, there have been some initial attempts to answer the exercise happiness question.

One study looked at data from 15 European countries. They compared people’s physical activity from different categories. Higher levels of activity correlated with higher levels of happiness. Researchers noted that even though there was a link, they couldn’t determine if the physical activity was the cause of the happiness.

In a slightly more convincing study, researchers looked at levels of physical activity in residents of Canada. They first established a baseline happiness for participants. They then analyzed data for changes in activity levels and happiness in the following years.

People who were inactive through the years were twice as likely to become unhappy than those who were active. Those people who were inactive were also more likely to become unhappy than others who became active over the same years. And finally, the researchers noticed people who were active – and became inactive later – increased their odds of becoming unhappy.

Stayed Tuned for Section 3 tomorrow!
This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website: http://thebrainflux.com/brain-benefits-of-exercise/

 

 

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39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise – Part 1

Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness Edward Stanley

Everyone is looking to get an edge in their personal and professional lives. And while most people know that exercise can make you feel good and help keep you sharp, few people realize how deep the benefits really go, especially for the brain.

Not only is exercise the most scientifically proven cognitive enhancer, the brain benefits of exercise can touch almost every aspect of your life. So if you take anything away from this article, it should be this:

Exercise is one of the most important ways to get the most out of your brain. Physically and mentally.

It’s a pillar of great brain health and an important theme you’ll see at The Brain Flux. If you ever needed another reason to start exercising, look no further. The benefits have been broken down into four major categories below. They also include links for more detailed information.

Hopefully, it inspires and serves as a resource for anyone that wants to know how great exercise can be for the mind.

SECTIONS

Since there’s a lot of information here, I thought it was easier to search around and navigate by breaking it into four sections.

Many of these studies and the benefits listed below are interrelated. But that doesn’t mean they’re exactly the same.

For example, improving your memory can help you learn and improve academic performance. However, just because you have improved memory, doesn’t mean you’ll apply yourself in the classroom or be more motivated to study.

(Note to my readers: I will share this article, section by section, in my next four posts. There is lots of great information but I think it can be better digested in daily chunks!)


SECTION 1: Cognitive Benefits – Exercise can boost the base level brain functions which lay the foundations of our cognitive abilities.

SECTION 2: Psychological Benefits – Our moods and emotions can be affected through exercise, as well as how we think and behave.

SECTION 3: Neurobiological Benefits – The physical and chemical changes that occur in the brain.

SECTION 4: Lifestyle Benefits – Many other life activities and situations that are affected by exercise.

Cognitive Benefits of Exercise

Cognitive Benefits of Exercise

These are the core brain abilities that people always wish they could enhance. You don’t have to wish anymore, it’s entirely possible with exercise!

Not that it’s easy. There’s no pill that replaces actual effort, so, for now, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way.

These benefits are backed by study after study. You can think faster, concentrate longer, and remember more simply by exercising. And, generally speaking, people of any age can have these cognitive enhancing benefits. The only question is, how much are you willing to work for it?


1. Exercise Improves Your Executive Functions

Executive functions are your higher level thinking skills. This includes inhibitory control, task switching, attention, and goal management to name a few. These skills are important for problem-solving, planning, organizing, and behavior. It’s how you function as a normal person in society.

A review of exercise in multiple studies found positive effects for all ages in normal healthy participants. Overall, researchers found that exercise is a simple way for healthy people to optimize their higher order brain functions. However, the specific effects for younger populations still need to be clarified.

Even if you’re a little bit older, exercise can improve these important cognitive skills. One meta-analysis – which is a scientific review of multiple studies – reviewed the results of 18 different papers on the subject. All participants in the studies were considered healthy but led sedentary lifestyles. While several cognitive benefits were observed, the strongest benefits for this particular population group was for their executive functions.

2. Exercise Can Increase Your IQ

Most people will tell you that exercising is a smart thing to do. But that’s because it can literally make you smarter.

The topic of IQ is still pretty hotly debated among scientists. Some believe it’s genetic, others that it can be affected by environment. There still seems to be some clarification needed in research. What IQ actually is, what can affect it, and if anything by how much? For now, I’ll let the scientists duke it out.

One of the largest studies ever done tried to shine some light on the subject. Data from over 1 million Swedish men were used and the researchers found something interesting. There was a convincing link between cardiovascular health and performance on IQ tests. Taking it one step further, they also observed that young adults who improved their cardiovascular health between the ages of 15 to 18, also saw an increase in their IQ.

3. Increases Your Focus

In today’s world of flashing cell phones and beeping technology, we all need the skill to ignore distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. It appears that exercise can help us survive in an increasingly connected world. Good news when everyone and everything is trying to grab our attention.

One of the first studies demonstrating this was published in 2004. The study used two different experiments. The first compared physically fit people to those who weren’t. The second study looked at people who were aerobically trained over several months and compared them to others that received no training. The results found benefits in both studies. Physically fit people have increased control over their ability to focus attention as measured by a challenging cognitive task. The people who were trained over several months also saw these benefits.

That’s great news for regular exercisers, but even better news if you’re thinking about becoming a bit more fit.

4. Increases Your Cognitive Flexibility

Focus isn’t the only skill needed for a busy life. Our jobs demand us to take on several responsibilities. School studies are stressful and rigorous. And our personal lives can pull us in 100 directions. We are required to multitask, switching thinking modes, and keep track of several things at once.

Research in 2009 looked at the effects of three different levels of exercise in healthy adults. They wanted to measure if the frequency of aerobic exercise had an effect on a person’s cognitive abilities. At the end of ten weeks, a battery of cognitive tests was given to the participants. Here’s what they found. They saw that the amount of aerobic exercise correlated with increases in mental speed, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Being the thorough scientists, though, they adjusted for variables like gender and education level. The one mental ability that still held statistical significance was that of cognitive flexibility.

5. Gives You More Willpower

Willpower is another life skill closely related to your brain’s executive function. Also, willpower is a key ingredient in a successful life. We use it to avoid temptations, stay on track for personal and professional goals, and adhere to healthy habits.

Exercise is one path that can increase your willpower.

A meta-analysis published in 2013 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at several groups of people. Children, adolescents, and adults up to the age of 35. They found that short bouts of exercise had a significant effect across all age groups in areas of executive function, along with inhibition and interference control – which is better known as willpower.

The subject of willpower gets a decent amount of coverage in the media. But rarely is exercise mentioned as a path to increasing self-control.

6. Helps You Control Your Emotions

Being able to control your emotions might not seem like it’s a cognitive skill. Yes, emotions are a part of our psychological makeup. But the actual ability to control our emotions is a skill of cognitive control. Whenever you reign in an outburst of anger or continue your day despite feelings of sadness, you are exercising emotional regulation.

Scientists wanted to track changes in self-regulation. So they conducted a 2-month long study where participants were exposed to a program of regular physical exercise. The researchers noted a number of positive changes in behavioral patterns. Among these was a decrease in emotional stress and an increase in emotional control.

If you have a tendency to blow up at people or lose your calm, exercise can help you keep centered. Life is going to throw you a curveball or two, and a calm mind can help you navigate turbulent waters.

7. Sharpens Your Short Term Memory

Short-term memory is sometimes called working memory. There are different definitions used in the scientific community, but for general purposes let’s agree they are very similar. Working memory is the information in your head that’s currently being processed. It’s involved in comprehension, interpretation, and manipulation of data.

It’s also had some mixed results in exercise studies. The intensity of workouts and the duration of exercise seem to affect working memory in different ways. However, one study in 2014 had participants complete 30-minute workouts of moderate intensity. At this level of difficulty, researchers found a significant increase in working memory following completion. However, the increased memory capacity was only a short-term effect and exact duration not measured. Any long-term benefits of exercise on short-term memory still need to be determined.

8. Exercise Helps Your Long-Term Memory

There is a strong link between regular exercisers and improved memory. One such review in 2010 found positive and significant improvements among participants who exercised.

One study found that 35 minutes of interval exercise on a bike strengthened long-term memory. The timing of the exercise was important, though. Better memory was found for subjects who exercised four hours after learning. No benefit was seen for those exercising immediately after learning.

Another study split participants up into three groups. Each group was told to recall as much information as possible from two paragraphs. The first group received the information after exercise, the second before exercise, and the last completed no exercise. They found that the group that was exposed to exercise before being given the information performed significantly better at recall than the other two groups.

The effects of resistance exercise on memory was also studied. Subjects were shown photos with different emotional values (neutral, positive, or negative) and then proceeded to exercise using a leg extension machine. After 48 hours, they were asked to recall the photos again. The results found that the group which performed the resistance exercise performed better at recalling, particularly the pictures that were emotionally charged.

9. Makes You Think Faster

Everyone wishes they could arrive at solutions faster. Who wouldn’t want to be faster at solving problems and remembering things?

White matter is responsible for the transmission of data in and around your brain. Having more white matter in the brain means that your connections are better insulated and more efficient at relaying information in and around your brain. So does exercise help with this too?

It turns out that it does. A study published in 2013 found that older adults with a history of aerobic exercise were observed to have better white matter integrity than their sedentary peers. And it’s not just older adults who benefit. It’s also children. A research article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience reported that aerobic fitness levels were linked with stronger white matter integrity.

Finally, in another meta-analysis, researchers found 24 studies that looked at processing speed and exercise. They found that exercise gave people a modest improvement in their cognitive speed. And verifying the results mentioned above, it did this across all ages.

Stayed Tuned for Section 2 tomorrow!
This article was written by Eric and is shared from the following website: http://thebrainflux.com/brain-benefits-of-exercise/

 

 

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The Critical Role Nutrition Plays in Mental Health

The best doctor gives the least medicine Benjamin Franklin

One of the most unrecognized factors in the development of mental health is the role of nutrition. The link between diet and mental health is growing as the field of Nutritional Psychiatry/Psychology expands. This field is becoming more impactful as epidemics continue to make headlines surrounding the health of our country and world. We know nutrition has substantial physical impacts, but it is the mental impacts of nutrition that are gaining traction with additional research and heightening awareness around this topic.

Proper nutrition is what fuels our bodies and our bodies need a regular supply of fuel. Oxygen is part of that formula and food is another part. If we supply our bodies with a sugar-laden diet, we are filling up on poor fuel. But if we supply our bodies with a healthy diet, we are giving our brains the fuel it needs to affect our cognitive processes and emotions. Similar to a high-end vehicle that uses premium gasoline, our brains function best when it receives premium fuel.

How nutrients help your brain

The fuel we use can make all the difference and directly affects the function of your brain and mood. Eating high-quality foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will nourish the brain in a positive way. Similarly, just like an expensive car, your brain can be damaged if you ingest anything other than premium fuel. A diet high in refined sugars can impair brain functions and worsen the mental health symptoms.

When food interacts with the chemicals in our brains it keeps us going throughout the day. And when we eat a variety of foods, there are a variety of effects on our brain. For example, carbohydrates increase serotonin which is a chemical that has a calming effect. Protein-rich foods affect our brain by increasing alertness. And certain healthy fats that contain omega-3 and omega-6, are linked to reducing rates of depression. Since our bodies cannot produce some of these, it is important that they are included in our diets.

What should I eat?

It is important to avoid the high sugar, processed foods and focus on foods containing the nutrients that benefit brain health. A brain-friendly diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and limited amounts of sodium, saturated fat, and sugar. Working these foods into your diet will help protect your brain, fight fatigue, and boost your mood and alertness.

Common brain-friendly foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Blueberries
  • Fish
  • Turmeric
  • Broccoli
  • Dark chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Almonds

Helping youth understand how nutrition improves mental health

Nutrition and how it affects mental health is especially important during adolescence due to rapid growth and brain development that occurs during the teenage years. At a time when eating patterns are being established, it is also a time when psychiatric illnesses may develop. Although getting young people to eat healthily can be challenging, putting in the effort can improve their mental well-being and instill practices that will benefit them in their adult lives.

Engaging youth in food preparation and limiting their access to high-fat and sugary foods is a start. Keeping plenty of fruits and vegetables stocked at home while encouraging small changes like swapping out soda pop for sparkling water, or fruits instead of potato chips for an afternoon snack, might lead to more healthy choices. It takes a lot of effort to change one’s diet to include healthier food choices, especially for adolescents. But encouraging them to make a smart choice can help them build habits that will have a positive impact on their mental health.

What now?

Start by paying attention to how eating different foods can make you feel. Not just how they feel hitting your taste buds, but how they make you feel a few hours later or the next day. Experiment with a healthy diet for three to four weeks. Cut out the processed and sugar-laden foods and replace them with healthy alternatives. See how you feel. If you feel great, you might be onto something. If you feel more alert, are in a better mood and have more energy, you are definitely on to something. Then slowly introduce foods back into your diet and see how you feel. This will be the “aha moment” when you realize how critical nutrition is for your mental health and truly realize that premium fuel is the best fuel for your brain.

Today’s article was written by Darren DeYoung and is shared from the following website: https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-critical-role-nutrition-plays-in-mental-health/

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Dealing with Stress – Ten Tips

It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. Lou Holtz

Follow our 10 simple tips to help manage and reduce your stress levels.

1. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine.

Avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine and any drinks containing caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it.

Alcohol is a depressant when taken in large quantities, but acts as a stimulant in smaller quantities. Therefore using alcohol as a way to alleviate stress is not ultimately helpful.

Swap caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for water, herbal teas, or diluted natural fruit juices and aim to keep yourself hydrated as this will enable your body to cope better with stress.

You should also aim to avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars – they are contained in many manufactured foods (even in savory foods such as salad dressings and bread) and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. In general, try to eat a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet.

2. Indulge in Physical Activity

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body.

These are the “fight or flight” hormones that evolution has hard-wired into our brains and which are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat.  However, stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response, and so physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.

When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in the fresh air.  Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work or at lunchtime.  Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.

3. Get More Sleep

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately, though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep.

Rather than relying on medication, your aim should be to maximize your relaxation before going to sleep.  Make sure that your bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you stress.  Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as excessive alcohol if you know that this leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Try taking a warm bath or reading a calming, undemanding book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you.

You should also aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

4. Try Relaxation Techniques

Each day, try to relax with a stress reduction technique.  There are many tried and tested ways to reduce stress so try a few and see what works best for you.

For example, try self-hypnosis which is very easy and can be done anywhere, even at your desk or in the car. One very simple technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words such as “calm” “love” and “peace” work well, or you could think of a self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calm in my life” or “Grant me serenity”.  Focus on your chosen word or phrase; if you find your mind has wandered or you become aware of intrusive thoughts entering your mind, simply disregard them and return your focus to the chosen word or phrase. If you find yourself becoming tense again later, simply silently repeat your word or phrase.

Don’t worry if you find it difficult to relax at first. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice.

5. Talk to Someone

Just talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful.

Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it.

Stress can cloud your judgment and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective.

6. Keep a Stress Diary

Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective stress management tool as it will help you become more aware of the situations which cause you to become stressed.

Note down the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and note what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally.  Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations.  This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms.

7. Take Control

Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Learning how to find solutions to your problems will help you feel more in control thereby lowering your level of stress.

One problem-solving technique involves writing down the problem and coming up with as many possible solutions as you can. Decide on the good and bad points of each one and select the best solution. Write down each step that you need to take as part of the solution: what will be done, how will it be done, when will it be done, who is involved and where will it take place.

8. Manage Your Time

At times, we all feel overburdened by our ‘To Do’ list and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that you can not do everything at once and start to prioritize and diarise your tasks.

Make a list of all the things that you need to do and list them in order of genuine priority. Note what tasks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others to do. Record which tasks need to be done immediately, in the next week, in the next month, or when time allows.

By editing what might have started out as an overwhelming and unmanageable task list, you can break it down into a series of smaller, more manageable tasks spread out over a longer time frame, with some tasks removed from the list entirely through delegation.

Remember as well to create buffer times to deal with unexpected and emergency tasks, and to include time for your own relaxation and well-being.

9. Learn to Say ‘No’

A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it.  And yet in this situation, many people will still agree to take on additional responsibility.  Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence.

To learn to say “No”, you need to understand why you find it difficult.  Many people find it hard to say “No” because they want to help and are trying to be nice and to be liked.  For others, it is a fear of conflict, rejection or missed opportunities.  Remember that these barriers to saying “No” are all self-created.

You might feel reluctant to respond to a request with a straight “No”, at least at first.  Instead, think of some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently.  Practice saying phrases such as:

“I am sorry but I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”
“Now is not a good time as I’m in the middle of something.  Why don’t you ask me again at….?”
“I’d love to do this, but …”

10. Rest If You Are Ill

If you are feeling unwell, do not feel that you have to carry on regardless. A short spell of rest will enable the body to recover faster.

Today’s article has been shared from the following website: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/stress-tips.html

 

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