We’re all aware that stressful environments can cause damage to our mental, emotional and physical health, but yet we tend to neglect the actions necessary to reduce the effect and to greatly improve our lives. But why?
Researchers at Yale University have discovered that stress literally reduces our levels of self-control because it physically shrinks the volume of gray matter in the brain, which means that stress automatically triggers the inhibition to manage the situation effectively.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel! Researchers say that proactive stress management can help to reverse the symptoms, as well as conditioning you to better deal with stress in the future.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” –William James.
New behaviors can help to mold, change, and rebuild damaged areas in the brain due to its plasticity, which means that implementing new stress-relieving techniques can help to reverse and prevent long-term damage caused by stress. Here are 6 ways to give your brain a fresh start:
1. Learn How to Say No
Researchers from the University of California in San Francisco have highlighted the importance of learning to say no with confidence because saying yes to everything can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression. Many people struggle to say no, resorting to polite rebuttals that often leave the door open for future stress to enter. Avoid saying “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not sure”, instead opting for a decisive “No” when you need it most.
2. Take a Technology Time-Out
While technology can connect you to the world 24/7, it’s important to take time away from it all. One simple email or message from work can trigger instant stress because you might feel the expectation to always be available to respond, but it’s important not to be. You need to disconnect from the grid from time to time and immerse yourself in the present moment, preferably even for a weekend. Studies have shown that just a weekend away from simple stressors like emails and messages reduces stress significantly. You can start small and expand slowly, chunking off blocks of time when you are not available in order to give your mind and body the break it deserves.
3. Diffuse Toxic People
It’s important to realize that you have control over your own feelings and that you can decide how to respond to anyone or anything. Toxic people are known to trigger anger, frustration, and negative feelings in others, which is why it’s important to spend as little time around them as possible. To release the negativity, try to see things from their perspective: you might find some common ground or a way to empathize, which will help you to deal with them when you absolutely have to.
4. Release Your Grudges
Holding a grudge fosters negative emotions, which is directly linked to the stressful “fight-or-flight” or survival response in your brain. While this may be an acceptable response in the moment, holding onto the feelings and associations when it’s over can cause long-term damage due to the stress it triggers in your body, even if it’s just at a subconscious level. Decide today to let go of grudges, knowing that you are helping yourself to better health.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is based on research-supported meditation techniques, and simply put, it’s the art of being fully present and gaining control over your thoughts. It has been shown to reduce stress significantly, as well honing in patterns of rumination or negative thought processes. By practicing to be more mindful, you help to avoid the anxiety, depression, and unruliness associated with stress.
6. Surrender to Support
When faced with overwhelming situations, the tendency is to mask our weaknesses and to attempt to handle everything ourselves. However, a more effective way to produce results and to significantly reduce stress is to accept or ask for help when you need it most. Tap into your support system to give yourself the best chance at staying calm and healthy.