According to a recent Ipsos survey, Canadians say 47 per cent of their stress is the bad kind.

Good stress, like trying something new like a recipe or a workout or a tight deadline, can feel motivating or exciting and doesn’t carry through the days. But bad stress, the kind that affects your breathing, heart rate and muscle tension, can have negative impacts on your long-term and short-term health.

Too much bad stress affects your mind and body. It can lead to headaches, depression, heartburn, shortness of breath, insomnia, high blood pressure, stomach aches, fertility problems and a weakened immune system.

Many of us are experiencing higher stress as we navigate a new normal. Social isolation, working from home, job loss, working as an essential worker, taking care of kids who are out of school, gym closures, and even regular tasks like groceries now cause stress. It’s normal to feel anxious or stressed – Statistics Canada released a recent survey showing that the majority of Canadians are anxious about the health of a family member, their own health or family stress. It’s now more important than ever to care for our mental health and our overall well-being.

The science behind stress

In an article by Smithsonian Magazine, they explain the stress response: When we feel under pressure the nervous system instructs our bodies to release stress hormones including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These produce physiological changes to help us cope with the threat or danger we see to be upon us. This is called the “stress response” or the “fight-or-flight” response.

However, according to Rick Hanson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, “modern life exposes us to mild-to-moderate, but chronic, stress constantly — multitasking, juggling too many things, moving too quickly, being bombarded with stimulation.” We’re simply not designed to flee from stressors for multiple hours a day with no breaks. But that is essentially what we do.

With regular life already having its own stresses, living through a pandemic brings on a whole new level of stress. This is why it’s important to develop your own stress-relieving strategy into your daily routine. We’ve got you covered with some tips.

Avoid stimulants

Choose healthy foods: Stress can lead to unhealthy food choices (that’s why it’s called comfort food), but mindfully making better choices when stressed out can have a longer lasting positive affect than a tub of ice cream. Instead, choose foods that are rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits), complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits and veggies), magnesium (leafy greens, salmon and soybeans) and omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, nuts and seeds)

Move your body:

When you’re stressed, it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise. However, physical activity, even a bike ride or brisk walk is good for the mind and the body. Not only does movement take your mind off your worries, it also increases the production of endorphins in your brain. These feel-good neurotransmitters can give you a sense of well-being and euphoria. Regular exercise can also boost your energy and help you sleep better, which can improve your ability to manage stress

Make time for yourself:

It’s easy to get caught up in being busy. When stress is high and it feels like there’s no time to relax, that’s when it’s most important to take a minute for ourselves. Relaxing relieves tension, slows heart rate, increases blood flow in our body, and can actually give us more energy and the mindset to get things done more efficiently. Even if it’s only for short periods throughout the day, take a few minutes to refresh by focusing on breathing, going for a walk, meditating, tightening and relaxing muscles, or visualizing a relaxing place and focusing on the details.