Leading a stress-filled life can spell trouble for our body and mind. While we cannot escape stress entirely, we do have the ability to manage it every day in simple yet effective ways. Read on to learn how.

We all know how critical it is to prioritize our health. Taking good care of ourselves is the key to feeling our best, both in body and mind.

A fundamental part of taking care of ourselves is getting a handle on our day to day stress.

Stress can be emotional or physical, and a stressful event triggers what is known as the “fight or flight” response.

The fight or flight response involves an intricate physiological response caused by the stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system, which leads to a number of bodily changes, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, faster breathing, and feeling tense.

While distressing in the moment, these responses are necessary and helpful to prime ourselves for action against a potentially dangerous situation. Back in the day, our ancestors relied on this stress response to save them from being attacked by a charging bear.

Of course, for the majority of us, attacking bears are not a threat today, but we are still faced with very real stresses that cause our body to prepare for attack as if a bear were chasing us.

The perils of chronic stress

Most of the time, our body’s stress response subsides once the stressful event passes. The trouble comes when we are stuck in a prolonged or permanent state of fight or flight.

If not addressed, chronic stress can lead to a number of serious physical and emotional conditions, like burnout, anxiety, digestive conditions, headaches, weight gain, and heart disease.

Eating a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods and exercising our bodies regularly are the cornerstones of staying healthy, but managing our stress should be prioritized just as highly as an essential way to keep ourselves well.

Ways to destress for free

Reaching relaxation does not need to involve a huge time commitment or a dedicated meditation or yoga practice. There are countless small ways we can ease our minds and bodies to make a big difference in how we feel day to day.

The best part of all? You can achieve peace without spending a dime. See below to get inspired and start reining in your stress today.

1. Just breathe - on purpose. Intentional deep breathing is another simple, effective way to reach instant calm, and only 5 minutes is all you need.

2. Take a walk. A stroll outside is a simple yet powerful way to instantly be mindful of the present moment, and unplug and recover from whatever your day brings. If you are crunched for time, even a 10 minute walk around the block is enough to allow you to take in the fresh air, admire the nature around you, and soak in the sun. If poor weather makes walking not possible, head to the mall or indoor track at the gym to get your steps in.

3. Move your body to exercise videos. Sometimes we do not have the time or budget for the gym, yet still want to reap the stress-reducing rewards of regular exercise. Numerous DVDs, apps, and online videos are available for free for tons of different types of workouts like zumba, pilates, yoga, and aerobics, so you can sweat on your own time at no cost.

4. Reach out to others for support. Keeping our emotions under lock and key when we feel stressed can backfire, leading to even more stress and burnout. Express how you are feeling with others. Doing so will not only help you build greater trust and closeness within your social network, but by sharing with others, you may even find that you are not alone in your struggles.