Stress is a part of life, especially in the 21st Century. Thanks to a never-ending news cycle, smartphones, and a global pandemic, stress seems to follow us like a shadow. According to the American Psychological Association, over 25% of Americans rate their stress level at an eight out of 10.
If you are a recent immigrant to the United States, you may be confronted with an even wider range of daily anxieties and pressures. Fortunately, there are many practical ways to help reduce stress and increase your mental clarity.
Here are 5 ways new U.S. immigrants can cope with stress:
1. Stay Active
Exercise is one of the fastest ways to relieve stress. Why? Physical activity releases endorphins, which are the body’s hormonal response to alleviating anxiety and physical pain.
In other words, working out is like a homemade cure for stress.
While it’s great to spend a relaxing afternoon on the couch, light exercise can actually renew your mind and body far more than inactivity. Find opportunities to practice yoga, go on a vigorous walk, or enjoy a short run.
To reap the full benefits of exercise, aim for between 30 minutes and one hour of physical activity every day.
2. Sleep More
Major life changes are taxing to your mental health. If you are a recent immigrant, your mind will work overtime to help you adapt to an entirely new culture.
Sleep more to mitigate these stressors. According to a CDC report, there is a proven connection between a lack of sleep and depression.
While aiming for 7 to 9 hours of nightly rest, supplement your sleep with a mid-day nap. Studies show that a twenty-minute afternoon nap has significant benefits for boosting your mood and lowering your anxiety. It’s no wonder people like Albert Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, and John F. Kennedy took naps every day.
As an added incentive, the more you work out, the better you’ll sleep.
3. Eat Healthy
When we’re stressed, our diets tend to go downhill.
Though late-night pizza or ice cream taste great in the moment, those cravings ultimately do more physical harm than good. Eating an overabundance of certain ingredients and processed foods will spike your cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone.
As a general rule, try to limit the following three ingredients: sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. While the “highs” of sugar and caffeine are enjoyable, they will ultimately increase your stress levels. Similarly, alcoholic beverages provide temporary relaxation at the end of the day, but they decrease our levels of serotonin: the hormone that keeps us in a positive mood.
Though alcohol helps people fall asleep faster (because it’s a depressant), it interferes with our rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep, the most healing stages of rest. By disrupting our ability to enjoy deep sleep, alcohol can steadily lead to greater stress and fatigue buildup during the day.
4. Read More
One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is by exchanging your electronics for a paperback novel.
In the age of Netflix binge-watching, it takes a lot of discipline to turn off the TV and crack open a book. If you can manage it, however, your stress levels will thank you.
According to a study at The University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, just six minutes of reading can reduce your anxiety by up to 68 percent.
Dr. David Lewis, a neuropsychologist who contributed to the Sussex study, said, “It really doesn’t matter what book you read. By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”
Better yet, when you read before bed (instead of scrolling on your smartphone!), you’ll sleep better and lower your stress levels. That’s apparently why Bill Gates reads for an hour a night before bed.
5. Practice Meditation
Meditation has many definitions. It can include prayer, deep breathing exercises, repetitive movement, or simply private time in contemplation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation is “a type of mind-body complementary medicine.” In other words, meditation focuses on the spiritual side of your life that unites both your physical and psychological self.
While silencing the outside world, meditation promotes inner focus and calm. By practicing meditation through yoga, Qi gong, deep breathing, mantras, or prayer, you encourage a renewed clarity and perspective to quiet your stress.
Such mindful activities are proven to reduce cortisol levels while normalizing your blood pressure and heart rate. Click here to learn more about the science behind practicing meditation.
As a new immigrant, you have enough to worry about. While adjusting to life in the U.S., you deserve to have confidence that your loved ones are taken care of back home.
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