There’s no debate — when your body is stressed, it just doesn’t function properly. The trouble is, a surprising amount of everyday activities have the tendency to rack up your stress levels –sometimes very indiscreetly. Identifying your chronic stressors is the first step in reducing your overall stress load and living more mindfully. These 7 activities are some of the most common sources of stress you’ll encounter day to day.
Staying up late. Having a late bedtime, regardless of how many hours you actually sleep, places unwanted stress on your body and disrupts its natural circadian rhythms. According to a study, the later students went to bed, the more prone they became to negative thinking and poor moods — even if they still got a solid 8 hours. The biggest cause of late-night wakefulness is technology. The soft white light emitted from your devices can actually disrupt the production of sleep hormones in your body. Try unplugging for an hour or two before bedtime — read a book, you know, with pages and everything — and notice if you fall asleep earlier or more easily.
Over-caffeination. While moderate amounts of delicious caffeine can be beneficial, exceeding your limit can have some undesirable consequences. Too much of this stimulant can lead to elevated adrenaline, cortisol, anxiety, and blood pressure. Chronically elevated levels of these things can do some serious damage to your health, and make you more prone to other ailments. Enjoy in moderation.
Alcohol. This one may be obvious, but it warrants a mention. Drinking can interfere with your sleep cycle and elevate cortisol levels. However, if you only have one (for women) or two (for men) drinks a day, you should be safe from unwanted effects. In fact, alcohol in moderation can actually reduce bodily inflammation, rates or depression, and overall stress. Just be cognizant of how much you’re consuming, and watch out for over-snacking while at the bar, as drinks are already a fairly calorie-dense load for your body to process.
Excessive exercise. Yes, exercise is good for you. But there can always be too much of a good thing. If you are hitting the cardio too hard on top of a stressful work day and what have you, over-exercising can actually have a detrimental effect on your health. It can lead to adrenal exhaustion, overproduction of stress hormones, and difficulty maintaining focus. Remember, light or rest days are just as important as intense days when you’re working out.
Email. If you are checking your email more than 3 times a day, you may be stressing yourself out more than is necessary. The simple act of checking your inbox elevated stress levels, especially before bed. Limit yourself to checking your inbox at certain times during the day if you can, and don’t feel like you have to respond to every single message the instant you read it. Yes, email is a form of instant communication, but that doesn’t mean you have to reply instantly. Pull your eyes off of your screen and allow yourself to live in the moment.
Your commute. From honking car horns, angry over-caffeinated drivers, exhaust fumes, and inclement weather, no one really looks forward to the drive to work. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who telecommute to work, odds are that your daily commute can turn a great day into a stressful one in an instant. A study actually linked commuters — drivers and public transport riders — to significantly higher fatigue and stress levels, as well as more health problems. If you can, try biking or walking to work. The exercise and fresh air will wake you up and make you more productive throughout the rest of the day. If not, try listening to some calming music while you steady yourself for the inevitable scramble, or simply noticing the environment around you rather than focusing on the stress of getting to work on time.
Fad diets. Staying on a strict diet is stressful — you’re hungry, you’re unhappy, and there never seems to be anything you can eat. And if you cheat, consider all of that stress tripled! Instead, follow a balanced, moderate diet of whole and natural foods. Processed foods also cause stress and inflammation in the body, so those Weight Watchers cakes that are only 1 point apiece really aren’t doing you any favors.
By identifying what stresses you most, you are empowering yourself to overcome it. Try to live mindfully and to overcome chronic daily stress with a balanced body and mind. All it takes is a little discipline and a smile.