In our individual pursuits of happiness, comfort and success, it’s no secret that the lives we lead can be stressful. And while we may not be able to alleviate our workloads and obligations, we can certainly control how we respond to them. A full plate promises stress, and with it, the development of bad habits that over time only contribute to it. It’s a never-ending cycle. But recognizing your stress-inducing tendencies for what they are is the first step to breaking them. To help you out, here are eight habits you have that are probably throwing you off in a major way.
You keep skipping breakfast.
As it turns out, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and can affect your mood and function from the moment you step out your front door until the moment your head hits the pillow. What you may not know is that breakfast plays an essential role in lowering cortisol levels, which tend to peak around the early hours of the morning — like, 7 or 8 a.m. — when most of us tend to start our days. Not having breakfast means you’re dragging through the day and risking your stress levels reaching an all-time high — something simply avoided by simply taking the time to eat a hearty morning meal.
You have a poor diet.
Your diet has a huge impact on your mood and stress levels. Are you drinking enough water? Are you consuming enough omega 3’s? Fast food may be quick and convenient, but it does absolutely nothing for the health of your body and brain, while a thoughtful and well-balanced diet serves to regulate stress.
You smoke cigarettes.
In times of great stress, there are a lot of people who might turn to cigarettes for relief. But research indicates that doing so may only serve to make things worse. It has to do with a little thing called nicotine dependency and its effect on temperament. While a quick cigarette break may provide a temporary sense of relief, it’s fleeting one at best. Cigarette smoking has been linked with increased cortisol production in the brain and smokers report high levels of stress and poor mood between cigarettes. If that weren’t enough to convince you to kick the habit, there’s tons of data available on the dangers of smoking that should do the trick!
You’re staying up too late (and doing it often).
While the occasional all-nighter doesn’t hurt, frequently staying up way past bed-time is a certified no-no and guaranteed stress inducer. An all-nighter can negatively affect your body in a multitude of ways, making it the best recipe for a stress cocktail. Take control of your sleep schedule and you can more easily regulate your stress levels.
You’re drinking way too much caffeine.
Over caffeinating can be dangerous — and especially in times of stress. Unfortunately, in our culture of deadlines and due dates where many of us haven’t figured out the trick to time management or restful sleep, the over consumption of caffeine seems like a viable solution. But how much is too much? Too much caffeine only serves to reinforce and reproduce the stress you seek to eliminate, so you may want to consider cutting back on your daily cup o’ joe.
You’re constantly glued to your devices.
And, it’s seriously stressing you out. There’s a reason you’re constantly encouraged to unplug (and before bedtime, especially). It’s because while modern technology is among the greatest advents of the 21st century, unfortunately, our brains weren’t designed to adequately process it compared to how often we consume it. Studies have linked the use of electronic devices and the frequent consumption of artificial light to increased stress and the development of mental illness over time.
You don’t exercise enough.
When you need a release, there’s nothing like a good work out, as exercise is a scientifically proven stress reliever. But the question that remains is, can inactivity actually cause stress? It would appear so, as many who don’t regularly exercise report feelings of anxiety, depression, and (you guessed it) higher levels of stress than those who do.
You aren’t managing your time properly.
Perhaps the most important item here is the lack of time management skills most of us suffer from, because of the way that it informs all else, including, but not limited to diet, sleeping patterns and caffeine consumption. Don’t forget that recognition is the first step. Recognize the patterns in your life that aren’t working and do your best to actively change them, and you’ll find yourself stress free in no time at all.