15 Ways to Stress Less and Live More

stress less and live more

By: Luke

Feeling stressed out all the time?? You’re probably, like many of us out there, suffering from a bad case of chronic stress.

Chronic stress. It’ll make you irritable, keep your brain foggy feeling, cause weight gain, kill your hormones because of the high levels of the hormone cortisol that stress brings, causes depression and anxiety, raises blood pressure, increases risks of heart attacks and strokes, and even bring on thoughts of suicide.

Being stressed out all the time can literally kill you.

What can you do about it?

Doing what you can to reduce as much unneeded stress as possible will lead to a healthier happier life. It’s true there is no such thing as being 100% stress free, but there are plenty of things that you can do to help you feel better. Coming from the standpoint of someone who deals with being overwhelmed and gets stressed out pretty easily, below are 15 simple ways that can help me and everyone else when we feel like stress has us down for the count. Hope it helps you!

*Note: I’m no doctor or medical expert, just a guy who’s into health and fitness sharing experiences. So anything published on SweetMachineFitness.com is not meant to be taken as medical advice or a substitute for it. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before making any changes to lifestyle in regards to health, fitness, eating, or supplementation.*

1. Trust in God

IMG_4640“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
-Jesus, Matthew 11:28

Putting your faith in God is huge, especially in life’s most stressful times!

Take a minute and remember that all of your life’s experiences, good and bad, have been used to build you and mold you into the beautiful, strong person you are today.

We were born to do great things!! We just have to realize it, embrace it, and move forward in our purposes, our life’s mission. It may be something that seems larger than life, or may be something as small as lending a helpful hand to those in need.

Whatever it is, big or small, trust in God and live it out to your fullest.

2. Catch your Zzzz’s

Sleep is a huge factor for many aspects of health. When you get enough sleep you wake up thinking clearer, sharper, hormone levels healthier, and in an overall better mood.

If you don’t get a quality 7-9 nightly hours of sleep on the other hand, rather than waking up refreshed and ready to take on the world, you wake up feeling groggy and unmotivated. You end up irritable, snapping and feeling stressed out over even the smallest things. Then when it is finally bed time again, you have too much on your mind after your long day to actually fall asleep and stay asleep! It’s a horrible cycle that many of us including myself, have been trapped in. So simply getting out of that cycle may be the key to better overall health and stress management.

Some healthy sleep tips to break this cycle:IMG_6603

  • Follow the other tips in this article during the day so by bedtime you’re more relaxed. You aren’t going to fall asleep if you’re all stressed out.
  • Do your best to get in the routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday… even on weekends.
  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible so you sleep deeper.
  • Train hard early in the day to wear yourself out a bit.
  • Avoid using electronics a couple hours before bed. Your tv, computer, and phone all give off blue light which actually keeps you awake when your body and brain are ready to wind down. If you absolutely can’t, there’s actually apps out there that cut off blue light after a certain hour. You can even get blue light blocking glasses that’ll help out too.
  • No caffeine after noon.
  • Eat more carbs a few hours before bedtime.

3. Simplify your life

“The things you own end up owning you”
-Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Having an emotional attachment to things isn’t healthy. Take a moment to evaluate your household and get rid of the purposeless things that are just taking up space! As a rule of thumb, if there’s something that you haven’t used in years and don’t plan on using in the next than it’s probably not a necessity. Throw things away, donate clothes and toys to those less fortunate, do whatever you have to do. Clearing out the physical clutter will lead to a clearer mind and as a result make life less stressful.

Once a year our town has a big trash pickup day, where they’ll take anything that you don’t want and put up to the curb and haul it away. Rhianna and I have made it a habit in the week leading up to that day of going through and ridding the house of anything that isn’t used. It’s a huge help and really feels liberating to clear out all of the clutter.

And don’t blow all of your money on things you don’t need!

If you’re broke all of the time of course you’re going to be stressed out! Things like buying a million supplements, going out to eat all of the time, and partying all all big money wasters. I’m not saying you have to live like a monk and drop all going out to eat or buying things from time to time here, I’m just saying not to let them rule your life! Learning how to cook yourself healthy meals at home and spending time with friends and family outside of situations that don’t involve getting drunk will have you much better off physically, mentally, and financially therefore making you much less stressed.

4. Stop procrastinating

I don’t know about you guys, but pushing things to the absolute last minute before getting started stresses me out more than anything.

Maybe its the simple things like sorting through paper work or tidying up a room. Maybe its eating right, starting an exercise plan, and getting into shape. Maybe even something as big as stepping out on your own and building up a killer brand or business. Whatever the goal, there’s no better time than right now to get started on whatever needs to be done. Take the first step today and get things rolling in the right direction towards building a better future for yourself and your family.

Make a list of things you need/want to get done. For bigger goals, tell friends and family about them so that you have a support system as well as people to hold you  accountable. Then do what it takes to get it done.

See: Stop Making Resolutions and Start Crushing Goals!!!

5. Meditate

I’m not talking about anything tantric or weird here, but taking a moment to yourself to close your eyes, slowly breathing, and clearing your mind is a great way to eliminate some stress in your life!

I’m no expert on the subject personally, but research shows that meditation is a sure fire way to drop cortisol.

In this study, 30 med school students between the ages 18-20 were taken on a four day mindful meditation retreat. To compare cortisol levels, a blood test was given in the mornings before and after the retreat. Findings showed that after four days of mindful meditation, serum cortisol levels dropped significantly!

6. Eat enough carbs!

Low carb dieting may have reached popularity over the years for weight loss, but for a balanced physique, healthy hormones, and being a happy person, all 3 macronutrient groups are necessary. Let’s talk about stress and carbs.

Getting enough carbohydrates in your diet allows for more serotonin to be released in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical/hormone that effects many processes in the body, but is best known for its effects on mood. With levels where they’re supposed to be, you’ll be more emotionally stable, less anxious, more calm, and overall happier (source). A deficiency on the other hand, can lead to anxiety and depression, neither of which are are good for keeping stress levels at bay. So getting enough carbs on a daily basis is another key towards overall health, physically and mentally, especially in times of stress in life.

What is the right amount of carbs?

The right amount varies from person to person, but I know I feel my best when my carb intake is at around 40-50% of my daily caloric intake. That seems to be enough to keep my muscles pumped and full, hormones functioning properly, hunger satisfied, and mood better. My favorite sources are potatoes, yams, fruit, and fruit juices.

And speaking of nutrition…

7. Don’t be too strict with your diet

buffalo ranch chicken fries

Pictured: Buffalo ranch chicken fries. Get the recipe here.

There’s no sense in stressing over only eating “clean” foods all day.

I’m not saying to fill up on junk food for the sake of IIFYM or flexible dieting here, but eating right and getting in shape should be enjoyable!

What I’ve found to work best to me is to have 80-90% of my calories come in from healthy whole food sources such as grass fed beef, starchy carbs, fruit, and healthy fats. This leaves a 10-20% buffer to flavor my food with things like ketchup, BBQ sauce or ranch, along with the occasional treat of ice cream, pizza, or bacon. Just track everything and don’t go overboard.

Eating this way makes dieting much less stressful, and life way more enjoyable.

8. Make an anti psychotic music playlist

Listening to music can be a great way to kick back, relax, and according to this prevention.com article, can drop cortisol levels by as much as 66%!!! So make yourself a playlist of 10-15 songs that make you feel calm, cool, and collected.

Then, when life’s stresses get to be too much and you feel like you’re on the verge of a mental breakdown, throw on a pair of headphones, get your playlist rolling, take a nice long walk (which is also great for reducing stress), and come home ready to live again.

9. Have sex

To my married readers out there, even in the midst of life’s stresses don’t neglect maintaining a healthy sex life!

Having sex a few times a week increases intimacy between husbands and wives, it’s fun, lowers blood pressure, boosts testosterone levels in men, increases immunity, can potentially burn some calories, relieves pain (or at least makes you forget about it for a while), fights depression, and just makes you feel good. So I shouldn’t have to tell you twice that sex is also a great for improving your mood and relieving stress.

I should note too that in times of high stress it’s possible that your libido will take a hit. So prioritizing some of the other stress relief techniques in this article and chilling out a bit beforehand will have you more likely to be in the mood when the time for intimacy arises.

11. If you’ve been going hard for a while, take a deload from your training

Working out is great! It gets the blood flowing, sweat rolling, and builds confidence. Heck, it was even working out that led me to meeting this beautiful woman I call my wife. Training hard and staying active should be a big part of each and every one of our lives…

…Unless of course you’ve been dealing with chronic stress for a while.

Whenever you hit an intense workout, your cortisol levels temporarily spike due to the stress you’re putting on your body. Under normal circumstances this does you no harm and cortisol levels return to normal once you’ve cooled down.

Under times of chronic stress however, cortisol levels are already much higher than normal and the temporary spike just piles on more stress. This in turn slows down recovery time in between workouts, leading to potential injuries, illnesses, and overtraining (source).

In times of chronic stress, taking a few days off from training and giving your body some much needed rest and relaxation might be just what you need to start feeling better.

Taking a week or two off won’t kill your gains but if you absolutely must go to the gym during times of high stress, cut down on volume and weight substantially or do some sort of light cardio just to get the blood flowing a bit.

12. Get outdoors

IMG_3074Health and fitness shouldn’t be limited to being stuck in a gym 4-6 days a week!

Take some time to get outside and do something. Take a nice long walk with family or a good friend, go for a light jog, do a bodyweight workout outside, play with your kids, etc. As long as you’re out there breaking a sweat and soaking up those much needed rays of sunshine you’ll start feeling less and less stressed by the minute.

As an added bonus getting a bit of sunshine in your life will provide you with some much needed vitamin D. Vitamin D helps protect the body from illnesses (source), makes you feel less depressed (source), and for men, it will even boost your testosterone (source)… all things that will help in that stress reduction too.

We weren’t meant to live our lives inside so get out there and get moving!

13. Get plenty of vitamin C

IMG_3182

Savory roasted bell peppers are a delicious way to get in more vitamin C

Getting plenty of vitamin C is another way to cut cortisol levels thus reducing chronic stress.

Vitamin C helps regulate the release of cortisol during stressful situations. It also helps clear cortisol after stress, which will help return you to your normal cool self at a faster rate than if you were C deficient (source).

I make sure to get plenty of vitamin C through drinking plenty of orange juice, and supplementing with a quality multivitamin (I use Raw one for men).

Foods high in vitamin C:

  • Bell peppers
  • Kiwi 
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits
  • Berries
  • Papaya
  • Guava
  • Cantaloupe 
  • Kale
  • Broccoli

14. Give ashwagandha a try

IMG_6353Ashwagandha (also known as indian ginseng) is a great herb all around.

It can be taken in the form of a pill or powder, and has a ton of health benefits! Some are reduced inflammation, heart health, sleep aid, it’s a natural antidepressant, helps deal with anxiety, is full of antioxidants, boosts testosterone levels better than most “test booster” supplements out there (source), and may even fight against cancer!

The biggest thing ashwagandha does and which is why I’ve included it in my article, is that it acts as a stress reliever by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that people who deal with chronic stress and take 125-500mg of ashwagandha anywhere from 1-6 months have up to around a 30% reduction of cortisol!! That’s huge! This big of a reduction will have you feeling like a giant load has been taken off of your shoulders and will definitely add to quality of life.

I know first hand of the stress relieving benefits of ashwagandha and take it every night before bed. It’s not something that’s felt instantly but it builds up in your system gradually and over time makes you a much less stressed person. So it’s not something that I “feel” every time I take it but if I run out of take a break for a couple of days, I’ll feel the effects of my stress levels increasing in a matter of a day or two. Ashwagandha is one of my daily supplements that is here to stay.

I take 470mg every night at bedtime from a company called Solaray which can be bought on amazon.

For more information on the many health benefits of ashwagandha, check out this article on examine.com.

15. Chill out and have fun!

Just chillin on this felt covered couch ;)

Just chillin on this felt couch ;)

Do what you have to do to kick back, relax, and forget about life’s troubles for a little while.

Breathe.

Love.

Laugh.

Don’t take everything seriously.

Be social.

Enjoy the company of close friends and family.

Take your wife on a hot date.

Play with your kids.

Do what you can to help out those less fortunate than you.

Go for a nice long drive with the music cranked loud.

Go somewhere new.

Check out a concert.

Eat a dish you’ve never tried.

Learn to cook.

Watch a funny movie.

Make time for yourself.

Go on an adventure.

Whatever it takes, don’t let life bog you down!! Every day that we wake up with our hearts pumping blood through our veins and breath in our lungs is a blessing. We’re only here once so let’s not waste our lives away by being stressed out all the time.

It’s time to stop stressing and start living!!

-Luke

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