April 16th is National Stress Awareness Day! Reducing stress is important to overall mental, physical and even emotional health. High levels of stress affect the body’s ability to fight off simple colds, and can generate high blood pressure and stomach ulcers. Symptoms of stress also reflect in mental and emotional well-being. Depression, irritability, substance abuse and anxiety can all be triggered by a high-stress lifestyle.
From medication to contemplation, stress can be managed through a variety of ways. Now that winter is over and the weather is pleasant, we can take advantage of the many stress-busting activities that can be done while fulfilling our need for the great outdoors!
- Mindful walking: Instead of racing through negative thoughts of what is going to happen or dwelling on what has happened, mindfulness reduces stress by putting the mind in the moment and focused on the true experience. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, but it can be very effective if combined with nature. Try not to watch the ground as you walk or hike, instead take in your surroundings. Focus the mind on all five senses; listening to the birds, feeling the sun on your shoulders, and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
- Gardening: As with walking, be sure to utilize mindfulness while gardening as well. Put any would-be distractions away and focus your attention on digging in the dirt and planting the seeds. Gardening offers the chance to harness your creativity. According to research, creative hobbies are proven ways to reduce stress. And as your garden blooms, the beauty and satisfaction of flowering plants promotes relaxation and enhances mood.
- Enjoy your pet: Numerous studies report that pets provide wonderful stress relief. Pets offer a strong bond that reduces blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. Dogs are a great reason to get outside and exercise. Taking your pet for a walk, to the park or playing a game of fetch can all increase your happiness while reducing stress. Because touch is extremely effective in stress reduction, even just petting an animal can benefit overall health.
- Go for a jog: Exercise is undoubtedly good for our overall mental, emotional and physical health. If you are used to exercising in a gym try changing up your normal exercise routine with a jog outside. Running rids the body of stress hormones and helps clear the mind of anxiety. It also minimizes fatigue, subsequently decreasing stress levels.
- Have a picnic: Picnics can be romantic or just plain fun; either way they are excellent stress reducers. Packing a light lunch and finding a cozy spot with a friend or loved one can be a great detour from daily habits and routine. Spending time with a companion has been shown to improve stress resilience and lower cortisol levels. Picnics provide a refreshing opportunity to eat, play and relax with Mother Nature.
- Read a book: A great way to relax anywhere is by indulging in a fantastical world. A good book can encompass your entire mind, helping to de-stress after a long day. Research has proven that reading a book reduces stress more efficiently than playing a video game or even listening to music. Books engage the imagination and doing so in the peaceful outdoors reduces distractions, allowing for the ultimate relaxation.