Written By :

September 23, 2022


Have you ever been stressed out after being stuck in traffic, late for an important meeting or simply because you’re PMSing? Well, same! We easily get stressed out and frustrated nowadays due to the overwhelming daily life challenges we face. However, if you’ve ever felt constantly overwhelmed and pressured over a long period of time, you’re most probably experiencing chronic stress which is becoming more frequent across all age groups. Good news is that we’re here to help you by giving you some tips on how to cope with it.First things first, let’s take a closer look at what causes chronic stress in the first place. Unlike acute stress which can be caused by minor events in our daily life like traffic, chronic stress is usually caused by mental challenges and major unresolved life or personal issues that we carry with us on a daily basis. These situations may include unemployment, a family problem or even some traumatic event (2). As a result, we might feel drained, isolate ourselves or experience some trouble in sleeping or focusing, physical aches or even changes in our appetite. Chronic stress can also be linked to some physical chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity in addition to mental ones such as depression, anxiety and memory loss (6).While we cannot tackle the exact cause of chronic stress, we can learn how to manage it and lead a more positive life. Sounds perfect right but how can we do that?Let’s begin with the experts’ thoughts on this. According to Yale medicine, recommendations for stress management include exercise, switching to healthy foods, setting goals, time management, getting enough sleep and making room for pleasure and leisure time (1). So let’s talk about each one separately.

Exercise and Meditation

Of all the other coping mechanisms, exercise is the most widely recommended by professionals to relieve stress. Apart from being an essential lifestyle component to lead a healthy physical life, exercise is also crucial to maintaining a healthy mental life by reducing fatigue and improving overall cognitive function. Also, fun fact, did you know that exercise is considered a natural pain killer? By stimulating the production of endorphins in the body, exercise can act as a pain killer which in turn can help a lot with stress. Finally, according to the ADAA, aerobic exercise including yoga and meditation that focus mainly on breathing, has been found to have the most potent effect on relieving stress and even only 5 minutes of it can exert an anti-depressant effect! (3)  In fact, meditation alone has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression and improve memory by calming down our body and shutting down the “fight or flight” response that our body ignites in response to stress. (7) Exercise and meditation actually exert this beneficial effect by helping in regulating blood pressure, lowering the stress hormones in our body and relaxing our muscles by increasing the blood flow and oxygen delivery to our cells. (2)

Healthy Eating

To begin with, stress itself can cause major changes in our appetite and food choices. Some people may tend to lack the motivation to prepare nutritious meals and even would skip meals, while others may tend to binge on comfort foods such as chips or chocolate which are highly processed and not nutritious. Here’s where following a healthy diet comes to the rescue. A nutritious diet will give the body the energy and nutrients we’ve been depriving it of to help it cope with stress. In addition, some foods may help more than others like fish for example by being an excellent source of omega-3 that can help tremendously in lowering anxiety. Fibre-rich foods like fruits and vegetables can also have the same effect by acting as anti-inflammatory agents. On the other hand, we should also shed the light on some foods that can worsen our stress and anxiety states like caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine can stimulate some parts of our brain responsible for processing threats and can even shut down the parts that act on regulating anxiety. However, this doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy our cup of coffee anymore but, like everything else, moderation is the key! Bottom line is, sometimes we might feel the need to indulge in some of our comfort foods which is fine but let’s remember that following a healthy diet does not only benefit our physical well-being but our mental one too! (5)

Having Enough Sleep

One of the most common side effects of stress is sleep imbalances. Usually, the body gets highly alerted when it is stressed out which causes insomnia or trouble falling asleep which causes fatigue and restlessness since sleep is crucial for cell repair, mood regulation and memory. According to health experts at Harvard, making sure you’re having at least 7-9 hours of sleep per day by relaxing 30 mins before bedtime can highly improve stress. This might seem hard to do at first but following the previous tips like exercising and mindfully eating can have an impact on promoting better sleep. (2)

Make Room for Some Fun

We all know how much time-consuming a stressful life can be from having to squeeze in our daily job or university schedule, deadlines, daily chores and to-do lists. All of this can be so draining! The key to management is time management. Try planning your day in advance and while doing so make sure you include at least 30 minutes to an hour to yourself. It can be a new hobby that you’ve wanted to try or an old one that you’ve been keeping in the dark. Reach out to your friends and do something fun during the weekend! All of these things can help in managing stress by simply releasing the “feel good hormones” and making us see the positive and fun side of life! (2)To wrap things up, our body responds to stress the same way it would to danger by activating the “fight or flight” system. By doing so, stress does not only affects our mental well-being but our physical one too. As we mentioned earlier, it can be correlated with many physical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases as well as eating and sleeping distortions. While it is practically impossible to eliminate all the things that can cause us stress, we can learn how to cope with it and use it to invest ourselves in new and healthy lifestyle changes. However, the most effective way to cope with stress should be an interdisciplinary one where you get to talk to a psychologist if you’re feeling too overwhelmed, a physician if you’re starting to experience some of the medical conditions described earlier and a dietitian to guide you through a healthier lifestyle. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed more than you would usually feel, remember that you are not in this alone and maybe try using one (or more) of these tips to feel a bit better!

Written By :

September 23, 2022