People across the globe have been overly stressed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. As we continue to practice social distancing and work from home in 2021, it’s important that we learn how to manage stress levels to the best of our ability in order to keep our mental health and immune systems in tip-top shape.
While we can’t always control what will happen during our workday, and we certainly can’t predict what happens in the world, there are small lifestyle changes we can make in our day-to-day routine that could actively lower our stress levels. (Related: 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work).
From cutting too many calories to not getting enough shut-eye, here are five habits that are causing you to feel more stressed each day and suggestions on what to do to break them.
There are plenty of health benefits of drinking coffee, however, there is such a thing as drinking too much coffee. In fact, consuming high amounts of caffeine can elevate your cortisol levels which can then intensify the effects of stress on your body. One 2013 study suggests that routinely high caffeine consumption could lead to weight gain or changes in mood to even more serious chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The solution? Limit yourself to just one to two cups of coffee per day.
Don’t miss Dangerous Side Effects of Drinking Coffee, According to Science.
Do you ever feel stressed while following a restrictive diet? Chances are your cortisol levels are higher than normal. One 2010 study revealed that limiting calories increased the total output of cortisol, suggesting that dieting could be detrimental to psychological well-being. Intermittent fasting, which operates on strict windows of eating and long fasts, can cause blood sugar levels to drop causing you to become irritable or stressed.
In short, if you’re trying to lose weight it may be best to start by looking at the quality of the calories you’re consuming versus the quantity. If you begin eating healthier foods, chances are, you’ll end up eating fewer calories without having to sacrifice feeling full.
Did you know that 95% of your body’s supply of serotonin, aka the “feel good” hormone, lies within gut bacteria? However, if you’re fueling your gut with heavily processed foods (i.e. high in sugar and saturated fats), this can negatively affect healthy gut bacteria and ultimately hike up your stress levels—and you may not even realize it.
To avoid this from happening, make sure you’re eating plenty of probiotic-rich foods, including yogurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and tempeh. In addition, eating more foods with omega-3 fatty acids (think salmon) and vitamin C (think dark green vegetables) can also help to keep cortisol levels in check. For tips on what foods to avoid, be sure to read The Worst Foods for Gut Health.
Oftentimes we forget to make it a point to get up from our desks during the workday just to move our bodies. Not only does regular physical activity help to support your immune system, but it also helps to manage stress and regulate cortisol levels. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Healthy Living Guide 2020/2021, scheduling 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to four days a week is the minimum you need to prevent various health conditions.
However, it’s ideal that you engage in a range of different physical activities each week in order to work different muscles and keep your bones strong. For example, on Monday you could walk/jog for 30 minutes, on Wednesday you could do a 30-minute yoga session, and then on Friday, you could do a half-hour HIIT workout.
Not getting enough quality sleep each night can be extremely detrimental to overall health. According to the CDC, inadequate sleep can lead to myriad health issues including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. It can also hinder immune function, cause weight gain, and contribute to higher stress levels. If you can’t get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, try taking two naps, 30 minutes each to help manage stress levels and offset other adverse side effects of sleep deprivation.
For more, be sure to read Can’t Sleep? Avoid These 17 Foods That Keep You Up at Night.