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It’s the middle of the night and you’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep. You’re in a comfortable, sleep-friendly environment, but nagging thoughts are keeping you awake. Maybe there’s a project at work that you can’t stop thinking about or you’ve suddenly remembered an awkward conversation you had years ago. You’re fixating on something that you can’t change in the moment and, as much as you’d like to, you can’t seem to let it go. Does that scenario sound familiar? If it does, you’re likely experiencing some stress.
The negative impact of stress on your mind and body is the bad news. The good news is that there are ways to lessen its effects. Learning what stress does to your body and the best exercises to de-stress can help you stop fixating on disruptive thoughts and, in turn, get a good night’s rest.
THE IMPACT OF STRESS ON YOUR BODY
Your body releases cortisol when it feels threatened or stressed. Cortisol is a hormone that increases sugar in your bloodstream, increases glucose in your brain, and slows down your immune and digestive systems. This is part of your natural fight-or-flight response to danger. Back when humans had to be on high alert for predators, it was key to their survival. However, your response to stress can also have lasting unintended effects.
- Impact of stress on your physical health In high-stress situations, like car accidents, this system works as intended. But, when your brain perceives everyday inconveniences, like traffic and work, as threats, it continuously releases cortisol, which has a disruptive effect on your physical health. Chronic stress is bad for your body. Headaches, digestion issues, muscle tension, fatigue and frequent bouts of sickness and sleep issues can all be directly linked to chronic stress.
- Impact of stress on your mental health Cortisol also affects your mental well-being. The effects of stress on your mental health manifest in changes in mood, feelings of anxiousness, sadness, restlessness, being overwhelmed, irritability, loss of motivation, and an inability to calm your mind.
- Impact of stress on sleep Physically and mentally not feeling well occasionally develops into sleeplessness. Unfortunately, your brain and body can best manage stress after a good night’s sleep, so being stressed and having trouble falling asleep can feel like you’re stuck in a negative cycle.
6 TIPS FOR DE-STRESSING
“Since vigorous workouts take a while for your body to relax from and can make it difficult to sleep, save them for the morning.”
While it might be impossible to negate all stressors in your life, there are ways to manage it so that it doesn’t have as big of an impact on your overall health.
1. Exercise regularly.
Exercise has been shown to lower cortisol levels in your body, and it’s a great way to get your mind off of intrusive thoughts. Unwind near bedtime with an easy jog, a long walk or a relaxing yoga sequence. For the most stress-free experience, try these exercises outdoors as spending time in nature has also been shown to lower stress-levels. But, don’t do any hard exercises right before bed. Since vigorous workouts take a while for your body to relax from and can make it difficult to sleep, save them for the morning.
2. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness means being aware and present in the moment. Simply focusing on the moment rather than in the future or the past can help reduce stress by breaking you out of a cycle of disruptive thinking. Think positively. What in your life is going well right now? What are you thankful for? Positive thoughts in the present help ground you. You can also meditate and try to clear your mind entirely, which has similar positive benefits.
3. Keep a journal.
Sometimes the simple act of writing something down can have a major effect on stress. If there’s something that’s bothering you when you’re trying to sleep, turn on a soft lamp, grab a bedside journal and jot down your thoughts. For example, if you need to present a big project the next day in front of your boss, write it down. Make a list of all of the things you need to do to prepare, then check off what you’ve already done. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished may help you quiet your mind and take it out of fight-or-flight mode.
4. Hang out with your pets and loved ones.
Spending time with pets, loved ones and close friends has been shown to significantly reduce stress. If you’ve had a stressful week, take a long walk with your dog or meet a friend for dinner after work. Just being in their presence can help your body and brain relax. Hint: It can be healthy to talk over what’s stressing you out with a friend or loved one, but don’t get stuck on it! Make sure you talk about more positive things going on in both of your lives as well.
5. Laugh every day.
The physical act of laughing has been shown to reduce stress. Even something as simple as a wide smile can send signals to your brain that it doesn’t need to be on high alert. If you’re feeling hyper-stressed, watch your favorite funny movie, see a comedy show, or visit a friend who always knows how to make you laugh.
6. Try herbal supplements for stress relief.
Adding herbal supplements to your daily routine can help break you out of the stress cycle. For example, ashwagandha helps calm your body and mind.* ZzzQuil PURE Zzzs De-Stress & Sleep. If you’re having trouble falling and staying asleep because of stress, you may need extra help. ZzzQuil PURE Zzzs’ De-Stress & Sleep Gummies and Tablets include melatonin and ashwagandha to help calm your mind and body before bed as well as help you fall asleep naturally.* So don’t let stress stress you out. The sleep experts at ZzzQuil have you covered – and click here for more information on how to help get the sleep you need. On this site you’ll find tips for good sleep hygiene, how to relieve stress and more. Plus, you can learn all about ZzzQuil’s non-habit-forming sleep aids like ZzzQuil PURE Zzzs De-Stress & Sleep Melatonin Gummies and ZzzQuil PURE Zzzs De-Stress & Sleep Melatonin Tablets.