5 Ways to Manage Stress

Whenever the human body encounters a task or challenge that would take a sizeable amount of strength, our body releases certain hormones that heighten our senses to increase efficiency. However, through evolution of humans into hunters and gatherers, this rapid surge in energy and elevated reflexes must be channeled towards real physical exhaustion. Otherwise, the amount of these hormones remains elevated in our bloodstream and that does all sorts of harmful things to our body. The results are catastrophic and they include, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, prone to diseases and the most common, headaches, to name a few.

Obviously, this cannot be allowed to continue and we have to make sure that our body doesn’t build up high levels of cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone). But there is one thing most of us don’t know about and that is cortisol can actually result in two different reactions, based entirely on what we do, right after it is dispersed by our adrenal glands. If the outcome of this outburst is something that is related to muscle activity, then this mechanism of our body is the most beneficial to our wellbeing by managing our blood pressure, improving our immune system, converting protein into fuel to provide a surge of energy to tackle the challenge that invoked the release of the hormone.

However, if we fail to turn this sudden burst of energy into work done, then the hormones dispersed into our blood stay dormant and build up gradually resulting in chronic diseases, gaining weight (especially around the belly area) and high cholesterol to name a few. Although we cannot monitor the amount of cortisol and adrenaline in our blood by ourselves, we can follow a standard set of activities to make sure that all the systems in our bodies are functioning optimally and nothing causes distress for us in the long run. For that we can indulge in these 5 very easy and healthy activities listed below.

1. Increase Your Vitamin C Intake

Research shows that nothing beats high level of cortisol as effectively as Vitamin C. The Vitamin can be considered an essential part of stress management. For students cramming for exams or any stressful academic feat, a diet constituted of citrus fruits would increase their attention as well as the quality of their work. Along with this, Vitamin C also prevents loss of weight that particularly affect students or people who usually work till late hours.

2. Reduce Caffeine

Yes, your beloved cocoa drink isn’t actually helping you cope with stress. In fact, even a single cup of coffee can raise your cortisol level dramatically. What actually happens to people who drink caffeinated drinks daily, their brain picks up cues for incoming caffeine and dulls your senses, such as making you feel tired and less concentrated to compensate for the incoming boost. This mix up of hormones in our body is very dangerous for us in the long term, thus, it is highly recommended that you slowly start cutting down on your coffee intake.

3. Workout

For a few poor souls (like me), even thinking about being overweight triggers stress, which usually ends up with being depressed about our weight and appearance. Fear not, because the built up amount of stress hormone in our bodies can be tackled even by varying our breathing pattern as in some yoga routines. Exercise is a powerful tool against nasty stress hormones that cause us to gain weight and distort our diets in the first place.

4. Sleep on Time

For all the tough cookies who feel as if they can easily manage those all-nighters, deprivation of sleep is one of the root causes of high cortisol. It doesn’t matter how we feel when the horizon starts to light up, being awake through the entire night automatically triggers our brain for something very strenuous (attempting to finish the TV season within a week still counts as the worst kind of stress!). After the excessive release of hormones in our bloodstream, the lack of physical activity, for as much as 6-7 continuous hours, well by now you can imagine what it would lead to. Our bodies crave for food because naturally the brain assumes that we have done so much work to compensate for the huge amounts of cortisol released which end up causing all sorts of adverse effects on our body.

5. Think Clearly and Positively

Perhaps one of the complex (yet extremely effective) ways of coping with stress is to revamp our thought process about certain things that can potentially lead to high stress. For example, when we think about the assignment due next week, we usually care less about it. Continued procrastination causes our brain to kick up the priorities of important tasks which ends up in a muddled mess of priorities when compulsory actions pile up on each other, which further reduces our efficiency and concentration.

Mahvish Khan

She is a teacher and an English grad from the University of Karachi. She likes the finer things in life.