3 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

3 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

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March 18, 2020

By Riikka Lamminen, Content Manager, Firstbeat

Stress is not just a vague
feeling of being overwhelmed, anxious or exhausted. It’s a physiological
phenomenon that can be observed and measured. When you are under physical,
mental or emotional stress, your body releases a complex mix of hormones and
chemicals. This release can cause several reactions, such as increased blood
pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. By analyzing beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate, Firstbeat and Garmin make it possible to
monitor your all-day stress and recovery.

Good
stress, bad stress

It’s important to keep in mind
that stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Positive stress helps you focus on
work and accomplish tasks. High stress levels may also indicate that there is
something exciting and thrilling going on in your life. Negative stress causes
anxiety and discomfort. It can make you feel powerless and decreases your
performance.

Both types of stress are unavoidable parts of
life
. The goal is not to eliminate
stress but to manage it and find the balance between
stress and recovery.

You don’t always need long
mindfulness exercises or a yoga retreat to relieve stress. You can manage your
stress with these three simple tips:

1. Keep fit.

The way exercise reduces stress
is slightly paradoxical. When you exercise, your sympathetic activity increases
and parasympathetic decreases, which leads to the release of stress hormones
and other physiological responses. Thus, exercise is actually a stressor for
your body.

However, it has been shown that
regular exercise and good fitness produce physiological adaptations that
improve your body’s ability to de-stress. A study, which used Firstbeat’s Bodyguard
measurement, shows that physical activity is associated with lower objective
stress on workdays.

If you train regularly, not only does
your VO2
Max 
increase, your Fitness Age
decreases, and your ability to recover from stress also improves!

2. Avoid
alcohol.

Enjoying a glass of wine, a few
beers or more is a common response to stress. But just because you feel relaxed
doesn’t mean you are off the hook, physiologically speaking. Alcohol is a huge
stressor for your body. It induces the stress response by stimulating the
sympathetic nervous system, which in turn releases stress hormones and
increases blood pressure and heart rate.

Alcohol also reduces the
effectiveness of your sleep, which can make feelings of stress and anxiety even
worse. A scientific study, based on the Firstbeat’s database, shows
that even a single drink can be enough to reduce the restorative quality of
sleep.

3. Just
breathe.

Controlled breathing is probably
the easiest way to de-stress. The method is based on the vagus nerve, which
oversees a vast range of crucial functions like heart rate, food digestion and
breathing.

Although autonomous nervous
system is largely out of our control, you can impact the vagus nerve by controlled
breathing. Deep and slow abdominal respiration activates the vagal nerve and
triggers a relaxation response. (Wang et al. 2010.) Select Garmin smartwatches feature
Breathwork activities that lead you through different
breathing techniques to help reduce stress
.

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