Stress can definitely wreak havoc when it comes to our physical and emotional health and our happiness in general, but taking some “me time” can go a long way in dealing with stress and increasing our happiness level. Stress can cause symptoms of stomach cramps, diarrhea, heartburn, fatigue, headaches, reduced libido, memory problems, and affect brain tissue that regulates emotions and self-control. It can also be linked to skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne, and to an increase in risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, weight gain, poor sleep, reduced energy levels, decreased cognitive function, and have negative effects on the immune system. According to Ash Nadkarni, MD, an associate psychiatrist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, stress causes an increase in adrenaline when our bodies go into the “fight or flight” response resulting in an increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Dealing With Stress and Increasing Happiness
Can happiness actually be measured? Robert Holden, PhD, author of Happiness NOW!, Shift Happens!, Success Intelligence and Be Happy, developed a Be Happy Index to measure happiness as part of a program he uses that can make changes in the way you feel and in how your brain functions. You can find this measuring test HERE. In his happiness program he suggests that the more you know yourself and the types of things that you love doing or experiencing, the happier you’ll be. Tips to increase your happiness score on the test include learning to accept yourself, having committed, nourishing relationships and connections with others, making a conscious choice to be happy, letting go of grievances and resentments, practicing some type of spirituality and making time for “me time” to get in touch with your own needs and get them met. Here are some other tips from experts in dealing with stress and bringing more happiness into your life.
- Petting your pet causes a release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin which are all hormones that make you feel good and lowers the number of stress hormones being released. This can reduce blood pressure, decrease your anxiety level and strengthen the immune system. If you don’t live somewhere that you can have your own pet, visit a friend’s pet or go to a dog park or pet store to get a little petting time in. It doesn’t take a lot, just a few minutes of pet time can work.
- Give yourself some extra me time by getting up 15 or 20 minutes earlier. You may think you’d rather have those extra few minutes of sleep, but giving yourself that morning time to not be rushed gets your day off to a better start. Leslie Carr, PsyD., a San Francisco-based psychologist, suggests using that time to get centered. That could mean reading from an inspirational book, thinking about your goals, meditating or doing yoga, or just sitting quietly and drinking a cup of tea.
- Exercise can help in dealing with stress through the production of endorphins that it triggers. Join an exercise class to get the added benefit of socializing with others or just go for a walk and breathe in the fresh air.
- Look for ways to do for and give to others. Passing on positive actions to others give you a happiness boost too and can start a chain reaction with those you do for wanting to do for others. It doesn’t matter if you do something big like start volunteering regularly at a homeless shelter or something small like send a friend a thinking of you card or pay for a stranger’s coffee at a coffee bar, just do something that makes you feel good to do.
- Spend some time laughing. Laughter increases oxygen to organs and reduces stress levels. Go see a comedy show, get together with friends and swap funny stories, or even learn to laugh at your own forgetfulness or silly mistakes.
- Pay attention to the colors you surround yourself with as they can affect your mood. Molly Roberts, MD, president of the American Holistic Medical Association, says that blues, greens and greys are all relaxing colors, but using any color you find calming can help. Look around and see what colors you have in your environment and get creative about draping materials or using paint to create a relaxing space for yourself.
- Find a hobby that will give you some me time and focus your mind in one place. Stress tends to bring up bunches of thoughts running through the mind all at once. Having a hobby to give your mind a break with only one thing to concentrate on can help in relaxation.
- Meditation has been reported from research studies to give you more resistance to stress by actually altering neural pathways in the brain according to Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago psychologist and health and wellness coach. Psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, also recommends deep breathing for even 5 minutes at a time as a way to reduce the racing heart stress can cause and to lower blood pressure.
Nutrition for Dealing with Stress
There are nutritional ways to also help in dealing with stress. Vitamin C can help in lowering cortisol, which is a stress hormone, as well as increase immune system functioning and stabilize blood pressure. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices like orange and grapefruit, strawberries, and sweet red peppers. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids such as found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and herring help maintain even levels of stress hormones too. AFA bluegreen algae is also high in omega-3 for those who don’t have time to make fish or just don’t like it. Taking high quality probiotic supplements such as acidophilus and bifidus can help the intestines to function properly by supporting the friendly bacteria that live there. One of these functions is producing B vitamins. B vitamins, especially B-12, help us relax, soothe our nerves and help us in dealing with stress. When we are stressed, we tend to use up our body’s supply of B vitamins just when we need them most and need to replace them. Taking probiotics can give your body a boost to keep producing these vitamins and help your body cope with stress.
Improving nutrition can support someone’s mood and also increase confidence and self-esteem. Bifidus, also called Bifidobacterium, can play a key nutritional role in supporting the substances in our bodies that promote healthy self-esteem. It’s one of the key ingredients in mother’s milk and one of the biggest sources of immunity during a child’s first two years of life. On a mental-emotional level, bifidus is linked with feelings of self-esteem, as well as feeling supported and nurtured in life. People lacking in bifidus either did not get enough during childhood, or the stresses of living have decreased the levels of bifidus in their bodies. Either way, supplementing with bifidus can create a strong positive change, both physically and emotionally. An easy way to get this probiotic support as well as the nutritional support from AFA bluegreen algae and some digestive enzymes for digestive support is with these convenient packets that are easy to take with you wherever you go.
Whether you use any of these suggestions or come up with your own ideas to help you in dealing with stress, make some me time for yourself even if you have to schedule it into your calendar. It will pay off in a multitude of ways including raising your happiness level, quality of life and better health.