We are living with more stress, plain and simple. Nearly 80% of Americans say they feel stressed out at some point in their daily lives. Whether it’s work, relationships, or the current COVID-19 pandemic, we carry tension with us, and it’s not healthy.

Here are six simple, inexpensive ways to combat stress and live a healthier life.

1. Exercise

Working out is good for your heart, and it’s also good for your head. Exercising combats stress in ways that are both chemical and behavioral. Aerobic workouts, in the form of organized classes, running, or dancing -- many of which you can find at YMCA Dallas -- get your blood pumping. That, in turn, stimulates your body’s production of endorphins and natural mood-elevators like serotonin. Exercise also reduces the levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. So you’re getting a double whammy of good chemical actions while moving your body. Anaerobic exercise, like weight-training or resistance movements, has also been shown to boost mood, so hit the gym and attack that stress!

2. Eat Right

Working out regularly and healthy eating go hand in hand when fighting stress. Certain foods cause the same reactions in your body as exercise. Some foods boost the brain-calming chemical serotonin. These include complex carbs like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, and pasta. Foods high in vitamin C, like oranges, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, help lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Low on magnesium? That may be why you’re experiencing headaches and fatigue. Remedy that by eating spinach, soybeans, and salmon. If you need quick relief, pick crunchy, raw veggies like carrots or celery sticks. The act of munching on these snacks helps release a clenched jaw, keeping tension away

3. Sleep

Lack of sleep is so common, it’s becoming a public health epidemic. And it’s a major reason many of us are stressed out. Brain chemicals linked to deep sleep also tell the body to stop producing stress hormones. So when you don’t sleep well, those hormones just keep coming. When you take part in activities to fight stress, like exercise and eating right, you will sleep better. Other simple steps include seeking support from family and friends and leaving work at the office.  

4. Garden/Yardwork

Get down and dirty in your garden and yard to fight off stress. Not only can a trendy landscape help boost your mood, doing some of the work yourself increases your sense of calm. Remember, moving your body lowers stress levels. Working in your yard does just that. Whether you’re pushing a mower or trimming hedges, you’re moving. If you’re planting or weeding, the bending and pulling motions are helping lower cortisol hormones.

5. Listen to Music

Something as simple as a song may put you in a better mood. Music has a relaxing effect on our mind and body, slowing the pulse and heart rate. It can also lower your blood pressure and decrease stress hormone levels. Upbeat tempos may make you feel more positive and optimistic (and may make you dance!) while slower tempos quiet your mind and relax your muscles. The great thing about music is, you can listen to it almost anywhere and anytime you feel stressed.

6. Play a Sport

Many sports offer the same benefits as working out when it comes to reducing stress. The activity causes your body to release natural mood-elevators. Playing a sport works on your mind as well. Whether it’s an individual game like tennis or a team game like basketball, sports can raise your self-esteem. You may become more confident in your abilities and feel better about yourself. Taking part in sports also promotes socialization and can lead to making friends. Check out the YMCA Dallas for a wide variety of sports for both youths and adults.



Authored by: Ryan Collins

Nutrition and fitness are Ryan Collins’ two big passions … make it three, if you count the World Cup. Oh, yeah, then there’s sleeping in on Sunday, too.