5 Important ways to protect yourself from stress

Jul 30, 2015 at 10:17 a.m. ET
Image: Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Feeling stressed is normal, and unless you're the Dalai Lama, you probably experience daily stress. What's important to know is that there are two types of stress: acute stress (temporary, i.e. losing your keys) vs. chronic stress (constant, i.e. your work environment). Chronic stress can sabotage all the hard work you put into being healthy, so it's important to recognize if you are chronically stressed so that you can make changes!

These are some of the ways that stress can negatively affect your health:

  • Depletes your body of nutrients
  • Negatively affects digestion
  • Weakens the immune system
  • Raises your blood pressure/heart rate
  • Affects your mood
  • Alters your ability to think clearly
  • Causes inflammation in the gut, which is the root of many chronic diseases
  • Triggers emotional eating

Fortunately, there are ways to combat these effects. Here are some healthy ways to manage your stress:

1. Become aware of your stress triggers

Keep a journal for one week and record every time you feel stressed. Record what's triggering your stress.

2. Learn to reframe anxious thoughts and take control of your environment

Practice reframing anxious thoughts. Rather than thinking "I can't believe I overslept and am running so late to work," you need to reframe to "I am in my car driving to work and all will be okay." Continue to repeat the reframed thought and you will feel yourself relax.

Control your environment by spending less time around those who stress you out, say no to people and work on improving organization and time management.

3. Strive to consistently get six to eight hours of sleep

If you're lacking in the deep sleep department, try sleeping in a dark cool room, stop looking at screens 30 minutes before bed, and experiment with lavender essential oil or an epsom salt bath before bed to relax.

4. Exercise at least four times a week

Exercising can be as simple as a yoga class or a walk outside. Deep breathing exercises can also help you de-stress. I highly recommend Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 breathing exercise.

5. Eat a clean diet and stay hydrated

Include foods rich in B vitamins (grains, beans and avocados) and C vitamins (citrus fruits, kiwi and bell peppers) in your daily diet. Stress dehydrates the body and dehydration creates stress (not a fun cycle to be in). Our body is mainly made of water, so staying hydrated is very important to function properly.

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