When stress gets the best of us, the signs often show up on the outside: breakouts, under eye circles, a worn-out look. But what about the effects stress has on your insides? Headaches, stomach aches, irritability and fatigue are just a few ways stress wreaks havoc on health. Ignore it and keep plugging along, and you may be facing bigger problems over time—weight gain, elevated blood pressure and even poor heart health can result when stress is left unchecked.
The good news is, stress can be alleviated and managed with something that’s free, at your disposal 24/7 and tied to a number of other health benefits: exercise. That’s right. It’s as simple as getting up, getting active and making movement a regular part of your day.
Here are a few ways to break free of the chains of stress with physical activity and some lifestyle changes:
- Find a form of exercise you enjoy. Don’t worry about what type of movement you’re doing. Just get moving! Exercise doesn’t require a gym membership, participation in a class or even leaving your home. Pop in a workout DVD, lift weights, get busy in your garden, go for a swim, take a bike ride. The possibilities are truly endless. Pick an activity you enjoy and exercise will be a pleasure, not a chore.
- Make exercise a priority. Just like other important events, exercise should be scheduled into your week. Take the time to look at your calendar, find ideal times and pencil in 30 minutes of exercise several times a week. Maybe you can’t go the gym every day before or after work, so schedule lunch workouts (even if they’re just a walk outside during your lunch break). Know the baby naps from 2 to 3? Carve out the time for some cardio. Thinking of exercise as an appointment will help you stick with it.
- Relax your mind. You’ve got your heart pumping, blood flowing and muscles moving—it’s great start! Now work on easing your mind to increase impact of stress relief. Focus on your breathing, let your mind get in “the zone,” and let go of your worries. Music can also help. If you feel you’d benefit from a calmer, more focused activity, try taking a yoga class. The combination of stretching, movement and deep breathing may be just what you need.
- Take sleep seriously. Exercise can be a great form of stress relief, but if you’re letting other areas of your life remain unhealthy, the benefits may not be as big. Like exercise, sleep should be a priority. Luckily, increased movement during the day should help you sleep better at night. If you find yourself struggling in the sleep department, consider a natural sleep support supplement.
- Clean up your diet. It’s no secret that a healthy diet is essential for overall health. But eating a clean diet, low in processed foods and rich in nutritious fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats, is important also for keeping stress in check. Give your body the nutrients it needs by eating whole foods and taking a multi-vitamin supplement as backup for anything you might be missing.