A Better Year: How To Reduce Stress In 2022

A Better Year: How To Reduce Stress In 2022

2022 is going to be your best year yet—we just know it. But to make sure this is true, it's time to take control of the stress that could be holding you back. And we know with everything going on in the world, taking control of your stress might seem like an impossible task. But the truth is, there are all kinds of stress reduction methods you might not have tried yet.  

Today, we're going to tell you more about those methods and how to reduce stress—but we're also going to talk about stress in general, including what research tells us about it. 

What is Stress? 

Stress, as we often think of it, is a feeling. We might feel stressed out when we're facing a tight deadline. Stuck in traffic. Or dealing with too many responsibilities at once.  

But what's behind this feeling?  

As much as it's a feeling, stress is also a physical response. Namely, the response to stress hormones in the body brought on by stressful situations. We'll talk about what makes stress problematic in greater detail in a moment. But for now, it's worth mentioning it actually serves important functions, including motivating us and propelling us forward (physically and mentally!)...up to a point. 

Unfortunately, more Americans than ever are reporting stress levels beyond what's useful or helpful.  

The State of Stress in 2022: What the Research Says 

As this 2022 article from the American Psychological Association reports, burnout and stress are at all-time highs across professions:  

"As in 2020, American workers across the board saw heightened rates of burnout in 2021, and according to APA’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey of 1,501 U.S. adult workers, 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%). Meanwhile, 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue—a 38% increase since 2019." 

How to Reduce Stress 

With findings like these in mind, it's no surprise more people are asking how to reduce stress than ever before. Next, we'll share a few different strategies that could help you with managing the stressors in your own life. 

Vagus nerve stimulation 

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has long been known for how it can promote well-being, improve sleep, and boost your mood. This concept is becoming more mainstream, as more and more people are discovering non-invasive and accessible methods for doing so (until now, many people thought it required surgical implantation of a vagus nerve stimulating device or jumping into ice cold water to reap the rewards of VNS).  

Now, transcutaneous (through the skin) vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) is a reliable tool in many people's stress management arsenals. Specifically, tVNS by way of vagus nerve stimulation headphones. With products like Xen by Neuvana headphones, the vagus nerve can be stimulated through the ear while listening to your favorite sounds, songs, or silence.  

As for what this has to do with how to reduce stress?  

Let's talk about that next. 

The vagus nerve and stress 

When you're looking for ways to reduce stress, vagus nerve stimulation often comes up in the conversation. That's because the vagus nerve is responsible for triggering the relaxation response that counters the stressful fight or flight response. It's what tells our bodies and minds it's okay to rest, digest, and relax. But rather than waiting for this relaxation response to kick in on its own, many people turn to vagus nerve stimulation devices to get the job done.  

By stimulating the vagus nerve intentionally, you can begin to experience a number of effects. 

These include: 

  • Better sleep 
  • More tranquility 
  • Brighter mood 
  • Enhanced focus 

And of course...less stress! 

Click here to learn more about vagus nerve stimulation with tVNS headphones here. 

Get control of cortisol 

If you know anything about cortisol, you likely know it's the "stress hormone." Cortisol is a hormone we release in times of stress. And despite what many think, it isn't all bad. It's necessary for stimulating the fight or flight response which can be useful for protecting us from threats. But chronic, ongoing stress leads to higher cortisol levels more often than is healthy.  

As this article from Forbes Health explains: 

“A little jolt of stress is a good thing in an emergency, when your adrenal glands release adrenaline and your hypothalamus tells your pituitary gland to release cortisol. These hormones are useful when we’re facing a sudden threat—but when they don’t subside, when we live in a state of chronic stress, the brain suffers,” says Philip Stieg, M.D., a board-certified neurosurgeon with expertise in cerebrovascular disorders, brain tumors and skull base surgery." 

Effects of high cortisol levels 

Here are some of the effects of chronic stress we're referring to: 

  • Chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases. 
  • Weight gain 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Impaired immune system 
  • Cushing’s syndrome 

If you're wondering how to reduce stress, getting control of your cortisol is a great place to start.  

How to lower cortisol levels (naturally) 

So, if you're ready to find out what lowering your cortisol levels could do for your health and your stress levels, here are some simple and natural ways to start. 

  • Get enough sleep and prioritize rest 
  • Skip nicotine and alcohol altogether or at least limit your intake 
  • Limit caffeine intake 
  • Exercise during the day, at least three hours before you go to bed 
  • Sleep in a quiet, dark room with as few distractions as possible 
  • Create a bedtime routine you follow each night 
  • Wake up at the same time every day 

Adopting an attitude of gratitude 

When you read about how to reduce stress, many of the tips you'll see have to do with our physical body. Things like sleeping more, moving more, and eating better are common. And this is for good reason—they're all effective tools for reducing stress and improving overall well-being. But your mind is also a powerful tool at your disposal for managing stress. Particularly, practicing gratitude. 

There are a number of studies about the effects of gratitude on stress.  

Consider this from Psychology Today: 

"For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience." 

How to start practicing gratitude 

Now, here are some strategies to help you shift toward practicing gratitude on a more regular basis.  

  • Make it a habit to begin each day by listing three things you're grateful for 
  • Keep a dedicate gratitude journal in which you write things you're grateful for each day 
  • Create gratitude rituals (eg. thanking your food source before dinner) 

There you have it! We've discussed three helpful tools for how to reduce stress and make sure 2022 is your best year yet. While you might not get a hold of your stress levels overnight, taking steps toward living a healthier, lower stress life can begin to have a dramatic improvement on your quality of life before you know it.  

Did you learn a lot about how to reduce stress in this post? 

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